Sex Case Too Old for Trial
Priest Accused of 1974 Rape

By Bruce Nolan
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
August 5, 1995

A New Orleans man's claim that a priest raped him 21 years ago in a Metairie rectory is too old to go to trial, a state judge has ruled.

John A. Gianoli III said in court documents in late 1992 that he had only recently remembered the rape in therapy. His suit claimed he was abused as a teen-ager by the Rev. Bernard Schmaltz, then a newly ordained assistant pastor at St. Clement of Rome Parish in Metairie.

But Civil District Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson ruled last week that it's too late for Gianoli to pursue a legal claim.

Schmaltz, now 47, vigorously denies the allegations, his attorney, Vincent LoCoco, said.

Shortly after the suit was filed, Schmaltz was relieved of his assignment at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Gentilly, where the parish council gave him a public vote of confidence before his departure.

Since early 1993 he has lived in an undisclosed community north of Lake Pontchartrain on paid leave, LoCoco said. The archdiocese has asked him not to offer Mass publicly or perform other priestly duties, said Monsignor Raymond Hebert of the archdiocese's Department of Clergy.

He probably will not be given an assignment until the litigation is over, Hebert said. That may be a year or more if Gianoli appeals, as his attorney, Richard Ducote, said he would.

Gianoli was unavailable for comment Friday.

When he was suspended almost three years ago, Schmaltz expressed dismay that accusations of sexual abuse have dogged his priesthood. He said he and his pastor wanted to confront rumors about him at St. Clement, but archdiocesan authorities thought it better to move him to Houma to spare damage to his accusers, he said.

But at Annunziata Parish in Houma, "I think there were new allegations," he said in a 1992 interview. That prompted a nine-month psychological evaluation, followed by the Gentilly assignment.

In court documents, Ducote claimed Schmaltz had been "run out of" Houma. Archdiocesan officials, after making Hebert available earlier in the day, later said they would have no comment on the case until the litigation is over.

In his one statement about the case, Archbishop Francis Schulte in 1992 said he accepted Schmaltz's claim of innocence and would support him.

That statement so angered Gianoli that he abandoned the anonymity under which he filed the lawsuit and disclosed his identity, Ducote said.

The case before Gill-Jefferson did not turn on whether the rape happened, but whether Gianoli had waited too long under Louisiana law to file his suit.

In her written judgment, Gill-Jefferson reviewed Gianoli's claim, which began with his assertion that Schmaltz molested him on a 1973 fishing trip to Slidell that included Gianoli's brother and another person.

Gianoli, then an eighth-grader at St. Clement, said he told several people about it, including the pastor, the Rev. Blaise Vosbein, who has since died.

Gianoli said Schmaltz raped him some months later, in 1974, while they were alone in the rectory. Gianoli said he suppressed the rape for years.

He said he realized it had happened to him only after seeing a news account of another case of alleged sex abuse by a priest.

But defense attorneys for Schmaltz and the archdiocese produced evidence that Gianoli, in seeking help from a series of psychiatrists over the next 10 years, repeatedly told them he had been sexually abused by a priest, contrary to his claims of suppression.

Gianoli argued that the abuse he was referring to in those sessions was the incident on the fishing trip; church attorneys, citing a reference to rape in one psychiatrist's notes, argued that the incident, if it occurred, had never been suppressed.

Church attorneys produced evidence that Gianoli was sexually active with older men before the alleged rape, Gill-Jefferson said. She said that reduced the possibility that the incident with Schmaltz, if it occurred, had been so traumatic as to be suppressed.

She also cited medical testimony that Gianoli, 14 at the time of the alleged rape, was a little older than the typical person who suppresses a traumatic sexual experience.


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