Man Sues Ex-Priest, Says He Was Molested As Boy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
August 24, 1999

A civil suit filed Monday in circuit court in Belleville by a "John Doe," now 34, accuses former Msgr. Joseph R. Schwaegel, a former vice chancellor and priest for the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, of sexually molesting him when he was 8 years old.

Schwaegel, a priest for nearly 30 years and secretary to two former bishops, resigned in 1992, saying he planned to undergo treatment for stress and anxiety.

Since 1993, diocesan officials have removed 13 priests and a deacon from active ministry over allegations of sexual abuse of minors, mostly in their teens. The diocese has slightly more than 100 priests in 128 parishes in Southern Illinois.

No criminal charges resulted, but some victims filed civil suits. Most have been dismissed because of the passage of time.

Schwaegel was arrested in 1987 and again in 1994 for offering sex at highway rest stops in St. Louis County. In 1994, he admitted that he had been a sex addict.

He is prohibited by the diocese from performing any public religious function.

In the lawsuit, John Doe said he was abused when Schwaegel was associated with St. Peter's Cathedral and nearby Cathedral School in Belleville in the 1970s. The suit claims that religious and psychological duress prevented Doe from disclosing his allegations earlier.

The suit asks for $ 50,000 each from Schwaegel, the diocese and two bishops.

Neither Schwaegel nor diocesan officials could be reached for comment.


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