Catholic Order Names Alleged Child Sexual Abusers Who Worked at St. Louis Area High Schools
By Nassim Benchaabane
St. Louis Post Dispatch
June 25, 2020
ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis-based Catholic order that staffs Catholic high schools across the country on Wednesday named former members who church officials say sexually abused children. The alleged abusers include 18 men who worked at several area schools.
The disclosure by the Marianist Province of the United States follows a review of more than 2,500 personnel files, including allegations dating as far back as 1950, Provincial Fr. Oscar Vasquez said.
The order also named a deceased Marianist, Harold J. Lootens, who it said worked at St. Louis schools and was credibly accused of charges relating to child pornography.
“Today, in a spirit of sorrow and accountability, and with a sincere desire for reconciliation and healing, we are confronting the darkness of these sins,” Vasquez said in a lengthy written statement published with the names of accused clergy on the order’s website.
“To those who have survived sexual abuse at the hands of a member of the Society of Mary, we profoundly regret and apologize for the serious harm you have suffered. We apologize for the betrayal and pain you and your family have endured. Words will never heal your wounds, but we pray that our actions today will help bring you some solace.”
The men who worked at St. Louis schools include former teachers, counselors and coaches at a number of Catholic schools in the St. Louis area, including St. Louis University, Chaminade College Preparatory Academy in Creve Coeur, St. John Vianney High School in Kirkwood, Assumption High School in East St. Louis, Cathedral High School in Belleville, and St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis. Many of the men worked at multiple schools.
The earliest any of them joined the Marianist order was 1923; the latest, 1980. Four of the men were removed from public ministry between 2002 and 2008; seven others withdrew from the order in earlier decades. Four of the men were also ordained priests. Twelve of the men are dead.
Any living Marianist named Wednesday has been removed from ministry, Vasquez said.
But details about the abuse allegations, including when they occurred and how many students were among victims, were unclear Wednesday.
The Marianist Province did not disclose when church officials learned of the allegations, when the men worked at each of the schools or how many of the allegations were being disclosed publicly for the first time.
At least three of the men — John Woulfe, Louis J. Meinhardt and William Mueller — have been sued in recent years by plaintiffs alleging they were abused while they were students at Chaminade. In each of the lawsuits, plaintiffs said a 2012 letter from the Rev. Martin Solma, a Marianist leader, that named Woulfe triggered memories for the alleged victims. One case alleging abuse by Woulfe is now before the Missouri Supreme Court.
The Marianists declined to comment further Wednesday when asked for more details.
“The Marianists are publishing this list in a spirit of sorrow and accountability, and with a sincere desire for reconciliation and healing,” communications director Bernadette Groner said in an email. “We don’t have any additional comment beyond this and what’s posted on the site.”
The men named by the Marianist Province and the schools they worked at are:
• August E. Ludwig (Chaminade, St. John Vianney, St. Joseph Hill Infirmary in Eureka, Mo.)