Congregation of Holy Cross Publishes Names of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse of Minors
By Caleb Bauer
June 13, 2019
The Congregation of Holy Cross, the Catholic religious order that founded the University of Notre Dame and Holy Cross College, on Wednesday released a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.
One of those priests, John Fitzgerald, worked as the director of campus ministries at Notre Dame beginning in 1980.
The move comes during the same week that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets in Baltimore to consider instituting accountability for bishop misconduct amid calls for more transparency and further investigation.
The list names 14 Holy Cross priests and one seminarian, and was published along with a letter from the Rev. William Lies, the provincial superior of the U.S. province of the Congregation of Holy Cross. According to the congregation, the last incident of alleged abuse occurred in 1991.
“Over the last two decades, but particularly in the last year, we have all become more aware of the problem of sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church and its mishandling,” Lies wrote. “I am profoundly sorry for the pain and suffering inflicted on anyone who has been abused or impacted in any way by the actions of any of our members.”
Who is on the list?
Of the 15 names on the list, 10 of the alleged abusers are dead and two have been removed from ministry. Three are no longer in the congregation, including Paul LeBrun, the former pastor at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend who currently is serving time in prison in Arizona for abusing minors.
Ten of the priests at some point were assigned in Indiana, though only three credible accusations came from survivors in Indiana, according to the Congregation of Holy Cross. Three of the accused priests were assigned to Notre Dame at some point during their careers.
Angela Knight, spokeswoman for the Congregation of Holy Cross, said in an email that the list “will be updated as necessary on our website” if more victims come forward and as allegations are investigated.
“The U.S. Province is releasing the list at this time because it wants to help victim-survivors in their healing,” Knight wrote. “The Province’s conviction is that transparency and openness may help in this process. Hopefully this list will help other victims who haven’t come forward yet as well.”
The Tribune was unable to reach the still-living former priests on the list by phone on Wednesday.
Last September, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend released a list of 18 priests credibly accused of abuse in the wake of the fallout from revelations in a Pennsylvania grand jury report that showed diocesan leaders throughout Pennsylvania had failed in their duty to protect children from abusive priests. Since then, the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese has expanded the list with further investigation, adding four more names.
The release comes as more than 20 state and federal prosecutors are investigating the leadership within the Catholic Church, as reported by the Associated Press on Tuesday. That revelation is accompanied by new information about the handling of sexual abuse allegations in West Virginia, where a Baltimore archbishop investigating the leader of the Catholic Church in West Virginia concealed payments he had received from the bishop and cut names of other high-ranking clergy from his report.
U.S. Catholic bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week to discuss and take steps in response to the abuse scandal. On Wednesday, they voted to create a new national sex-abuse hotline run by an independent entity.
The list from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend already contained the names of four Holy Cross priests: James Trepanier, Cornelius Ryan, Ralph Luczak and LeBrun. All of those names also appeared on the list published Wednesday by the order.
The list of priests are as follows:
John Fitzgerald — Assignments in Indiana, California, Arizona and Illinois. Fitzgerald studied at the University of Notre Dame, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1965. He taught at St. Joseph High School in 1969, according to Tribune archives. He later became the director of campus ministry at the University of Notre Dame in 1980, after spending three years as the associate director of campus ministry.
|John J. Fitzgerald|
According to the Holy Cross list, Fitzgerald’s one accusation of abuse came from the time he worked at Notre Dame High School in Illinois in the 1970s. That allegation, received by Holy Cross in 1992, caused him to be removed from ministry in 1992 and he left Holy Cross in 1997.
Archibald McDowell — Assignments in Indiana, Louisiana, Texas and Oregon. McDowell became a faculty member of religion at the University of Notre Dame in 1945, according to Tribune archives. Multiple allegations were received against him in 1949 and the 1950s from abuse in Indiana, Oregon and Lousiana, according to Holy Cross. He was permanently removed from ministry in 1962 and died in 1994.
|Archibald M. McDowell|
David Verhalen — Assignments in Indiana and Illinois. Verhalen was permanently removed from ministry in 2001, and one allegation from an assignment in Illinois in the 1970s was received in 2007. He was assigned to the University of Notre Dame and the now closed LeMans Academy in Rolling Prairie at some point in his career. He died in 2012.
Edgar Szymanski — Assignments in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan. Szymanski was ordained in 1943, according to Tribune reports. He was assigned as assistant pastor at St. Stanislaus, St. Casimir and St. Hedwig’s Church in South Bend until 1950, when he was appointed chaplain and religion teacher at Gilmore Academy for Boys near Cleveland.
He assisted at St. John the Baptist parish as of 1993, according to Tribune archives. Multiple allegations against him from his time in Michigan were received in 1999 and 2018, after his death in 1998.
Randall Blum — Seminarian in Indiana. Blum was charged with two counts of child molesting in 1986 in St. Joseph County Superior Court, after allegedly touching and fondling a 13-year-old and 16-year-old boy during activities he sponsored as a volunteer counselor at Christ the King school.
He pleaded guilty to one of the charges after admitting to police he had touched “several” teenage boys, according to court filings from then. The allegations against him were received after he had already been dismissed from seminary, according to the Holy Cross.
Louis Meyer — Assignments in Indiana and California. Meyer was an assistant pastor at Holy Cross Church, and later became assistant pastor at St. Francis Xavier Church in Burbank, Calif. He withdrew from the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1974. He has one credible accusation of abuse from the 1960s during his time in California, which was received by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007.
According to Tribune archives, Meyer was district superior for Holy Cross missions in Uganda and British East Africa beginning in 1961. The Congregation of Holy Cross listed his status as unknown.
Cornelius Ryan — Assignments in Indiana and abroad in Africa. Ryan was credibly accused in 2014 and removed as administrator of St. Joseph Hessen Cassel in Fort Wayne. He had been accused of sexually abusing children in Africa 20 years earlier. When confronted by diocesan officials, Ryan admitted to sexually abusing a child, according to news reports. Ryan worked from 2002 to 2011 at Little Flower in South Bend. His faculties for ministry were removed in 2013.
James Trepanier — Assignments in Indiana and Oregon. Trepanier was assigned to Holy Cross Parish in South Bend from 1981 to 1987, and then was at St. Pius X Parish in Granger until 1991, when the Congregation of Holy Cross restricted his ministry. According to the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, his faculties for ministry were removed in 2002 after one credible allegation of abuse. He also was assigned to the University of Portland in Oregon. Holy Cross documents state he is currently in a nursing facility “with no access to minors.”
Paul LeBrun — Assignments in Indiana and Arizona. LeBrun was a Holy Cross priest who was assigned at Little Flower in South Bend in two separate stints in the 1980s and 1990s. He was at Little Flower from 1983 to 1986 before moving to Arizona. He then returned to Little Flower as senior pastor until he left abruptly in 1999, citing health reasons.
The diocese says LeBrun was the subject of one allegation. But a Tribune report in 2002 detailed allegations by four South Bend men who said LeBrun had sexually abused them when they were younger. The report caught the attention of other victims who came forward in Arizona. LeBrun was charged criminally in Arizona, and he was convicted in 2005 on six counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to over 100 years in prison. He was defrocked in 2008.
The late John D’Arcy, former bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, previously said he didn’t know about sexual abuse allegations against LeBrun until 1999, when he immediately asked him to resign.
Ralph Luczak — Assignments in Indiana and Illinois. Luczak was assigned to Christ the King Parish in South Bend during his career, and also spent time at Notre Dame High School in Illinois. According to the published Holy Cross list, one allegation against him was received in 1969 and he was subsequently removed from ministry. He died the next year, in 1970.
The following five priests weren’t assigned in Indiana or the South Bend area after they were ordained:
James Gildea — Assignments in Connecticut. Gildea was assigned to Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, Conn. Multiple allegations against him received by the Congregation of Holy Cross between 2002 and 2012, after his death in 1986.
Lewis Morrow — Assignments in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey. Morrow was assigned to hospitals throughout the Northeast, and an allegation was received against him in 1977. He wasn’t removed from ministry until 2003 after a “review of files” according to the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Richard Nowery — Assignments in Louisiana and Texas. Nowery was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in New Orleans, La., and later St. Ignatius Martyr in Austin, Texas. Multiple allegations against him were received regarding his time in Texas in 1986, and his ministry was restricted from 1986 to 1994. He was permanently removed from ministry in 2002 after a “review of files” and withdrew from Holy Cross. He died in 2018.
Gordon Wilcox — Assignments in California, Illinois, Oregon and abroad in Chile. Wilcox was assigned to Notre Dame High School in Illinois and the University of Portland during his career, as well as working at a high school in California and abroad in Chile. Multiple allegations against him from the 1970s were received by Holy Cross in 2003 and 2012, after his death 1984.
Lawrence Dark — Assignments in Louisiana and abroad in Chile. Dark was assigned to a pair of postings in Louisiana and spent time abroad in Chile during his career. Multiple allegations against him from his time in Louisiana in the 1960s and 1970s were received by Holy Cross in 1994 and 2008, after his death in 1984.