Accuser's Family: Evansville Diocese Knew about Abuse Allegations against Former Priest
By Aidan Lonergan
Evansville Courier & Press
February 20, 2019
A sexual abuse allegation against a deceased Evansville priest last week was news to a diocese spokesman.
But according to the wife of the accuser, other diocese officials have known for months.
While speaking in front of the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 13, Christopher Compton, 42, said the Rev. Raymond Kuper sexually abused him multiple times when Compton was 9. The reported abuse took place while Kuper was a priest at Christ the King.
Kuper died in 2012.
Diocese spokesman Tim Lilley said a call from the Courier & Press was the first he’d heard of the allegation. But he was speaking only for himself. Because Aimee Compton said family members reported the allegation to the diocese back in August.
She said they spoke with the victim assistance coordinator and eventually met with Bishop Joseph Siegel.
Lilley said allegations against priests aren’t something he’s “routinely made aware of.”
It’s uncertain whether the accusation against Kuper would have become public without Compton’s testimony. It has a lot to do with how accusations are reported to the church.
|Raymond Kuper (Photo11: Courier & Press archives)|
The process of reporting abuse
According to diocese procedure – which was adopted in the U.S. Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People – any allegation of abuse is supposed to be reported to police. Then, depending on the accusation, the accused could be put on leave.
But if law enforcement isn’t involved – as in a case where the accused is dead – the process largely takes place inside the church.
The victim assistance coordinator takes a statement from the accuser. The church is then supposed to provide the accuser with access to counseling and other resources, as well as a meeting with the bishop.
The accuser’s statement is then sent to a diocesan review board. Members of the board might hand the situation off to someone called a “review administrator or investigator,” a “lay person” with “investigatory expertise.”
That person helps the board gather information, then prepares a report for the review board and bishop. If the accusation is deemed “credible" — a decision the bishop ultimately makes — a living priest would be permanently removed from the priesthood.
The case for dead priests is more nebulous. But it’s something the Evansville Diocese has faced before.
In 2007, multiple allegations against a well-known, deceased priest became public.
More than 10 people accused Othmar Schroeder of molestation. He had a decades-long career, largely serving in Jasper.
Then-Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger admitted he had known about the accusations against Schroeder since 1996. (Lilley said the diocese isn’t aware of any other allegations against Kuper.)
The diocese apologized and hosted a public service for victims and their families. It also asked a Jasper Knights of Columbus branch to nix Schroeder from its name. His picture was also removed from Holy Family Church – an institute he founded.
Like Schroeder, Kuper also has something named for him. The Raymond Kuper Service Award, a diocese scholarship, is given to two students who “exemplify the late Father Kuper’s commitment to youth and Catholic education.”
That stems from the power he exerted over the Catholic school system. He twice served as diocese superintendent. He oversaw all students, could hire and fire teachers, steer school policies and even mold curriculum.
Lilley said he didn’t know whether the scholarship would be renamed. And if the allegation against Kuper is found to be credible, will parishioners and the thousands of kids who attended schools he oversaw be made aware?
“Any determination will be announced publicly,” he said.
The diocese said it will release the names of priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors some time later this year.