Archdiocese Suspends Waukesha Priest after Sex Abuse Allegation

By Gitte Laasby
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 10, 2012

A Waukesha priest has been put on administrative leave just two weeks before he was scheduled to retire because allegations surfaced that he sexually abused a minor three decades ago, Milwaukee Archdiocese officials announced over the weekend.

Father John Schreiter was scheduled to retire June 24 from his position as a pastor at St. John Neumann Parish in Waukesha until the allegations surfaced last week as part of the archdiocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, spokeswoman Julie Wolf said Sunday.

Vicar General Bill Kohler announced the accusations Sunday morning during Mass at St. John Neumann. In a recording provided to the Journal Sentinel by a parishioner, he called the allegations "a shock" and "very painful business."

The incident was reported to the district attorney's office, but the DA declined to prosecute, so according to its sexual abuse policy, the archdiocese has initiated its own investigation, officials said. A private investigator will research it and report to the Diocesan Review Board, which will make a recommendation to Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who will decide what will happen to Schreiter, Wolf explained.

Kohler on Sunday read the congregation a letter from the archbishop, saying Schreiter denies the allegations and is cooperating with the investigation.

"I must remind every one of you that no substantiation of this allegation has occurred," Kohler read.

"People will say, 'Why now? Why not wait?' " he commented, after reading the statement. "In our society, there are policies. If an accusation comes against a policeman, a coach, a teacher, anybody, they're immediately placed on administrative leave. We have to follow the policies of our society. If we don't, we will pay for it. We will pay in the court of public opinion.

"You know that the victims have lawyers, and you know they're watching us. You watch television. You see the kinds of things they say about the church on the courthouse steps. You don't want that kind of antic to take place against you. So right now, we'll just have to delay Father's retirement, just put it on hold, until we can conclude this very difficult process."

Schreiter did not respond to a request for comment.

Kohler called Schreiter "a fun-loving, dedicated priest" and asked the congregation to think of him that way during his leave and to pray for him and any victims.

Kohler said the investigation could take a month.

Schreiter had served as pastor at St. John Neumann since June 2010 and previously served at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Beaver Dam, where he started in 2006. He had been a pastor for more than 45 years.

It's the second accusation against Schreiter. In April 2004, he was placed on a leave of absence from St. Bruno's Parish in Dousman after someone claimed to have been abused by him in Sauk County as an 18-year-old about 25 years earlier. Four months later, Schreiter returned to active ministry after the Diocesan Review Board found the allegation unsubstantiated.

Officials from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the new claim ought to make officials reopen the 2004 case.

"They're going to have to, especially if there's a similar offense pattern. If reports are coming in at different times from different individuals and they're describing a similar offense pattern, where he did it and how he did it, that's crucial," said Peter Isely, Midwest director of SNAP. "I'm not saying anything did happen, but I don't know. Was there information that didn't get to them at the time? It has to be reopened, I think that's beyond any doubt."

Father Curt Frederick, who was scheduled to take over Schreiter's Waukesha duties on June 19, has started his duties early.


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