Diocese: Priest Removed Because of 'Possible Sexual Impropriety'

By Margaret Stafford
Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 2, 2002

A priest with parishes in Marysville and Beattie has been removed because of "issues of possible sexual impropriety," the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., said Thursday.

The Rev. Dennis Schmitz, who once oversaw recruiting of new priests for the archdiocese, has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately, and placed on indefinite leave, the diocese said in a statement.

"Issues of possible sexual impropriety have been raised in regard to Father Schmitz, and we believe that it is best for all parties that he be with his family," said Archbishop James P. Keleher.

Schmitz is pastor of St. Gregory's Parish in Marysville and St. Malachy's Parish in Beattie. He did not return a phone call Thursday from The Associated Press.

Keleher said the archdiocese has reported the matter to the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services in Topeka. He said the archdiocese would not comment further until that investigation is finished.

The SRS took a report on Schmitz Thursday morning but turned the case over to law enforcement officers. That is typical when an alleged abuse case does not involve a child's caretaker or relative, spokeswoman Stacey Herman said.

Rev. Charles McGlinn, vicar general of personnel of the diocese, said the case was referred to the state because minors may have been involved.

"Because of our suspicions, we felt that we had to act immediately," McGlinn said.

McGlinn said he did not know when the incidents allegedly occurred but he believed this was the first allegation ever received against Schmitz.

Schmitz's attorney, Stephen Mirakian, said he could not comment until he could review findings of any investigation into the allegations. He said Schmitz called him Wednesday night after finding out that a report had been made against him.

"Contacting an attorney in such cases is a prudent thing to do, regardless of the merits of the allegations," Mirakian said.

A native of Axtell, Schmitz, 41, attended Benedictine College in Atchison and was ordained in 1989. He has served in various parishes in the archdiocese, including St. Lawrence Catholic Campus center in Lawrence, St. Ann's in Prairie Village and Queen of the Holy Rosary in Overland Park. He became the vocations director in the mid-1990s.

In August 2000, Schmitz led a pilgrimage of 100 youths from the archdiocese to World Youth Day in Rome. He also founded The Runnin' Revs, a basketball team consisting of archdiocesan priests that plays games against area youth teams.

The archdiocese also is investigating complaints about four other priests. McGlinn said two of the priests are dead and one is retired with no assignment in the diocese. All the allegations against the four date back 30 to 40 years, McGlinn said.

The fourth priest being investigated is the Rev. Donald Redmond, a monk at St. Benedictine's Abbey, who was removed around March 1 from Sacred Heart parish in Sabetha. One man alleged sexual misconduct by Redmond in Iowa, where Redmond served in the mid-1960s.

Other allegations were made by parishioners at Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Seneca, where Redmond was pastor from 1961-64.

In an article in the diocese's newspaper, The Leaven, McGlinn said the archdiocese is creating a new team to investigate allegations of sexual impropriety by priests. The team, which will be comprised mostly of lay people, will interview individuals making the allegations and make recommendations directly to Keleher.

The team will be led by Rev. Ray Burger, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Eudora and the vice chancellor of the archdiocese.


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