3 Accused Priests Await Decision
Local Archbishop Could Excommunicate Men over Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
By Bonnie Harris
December 17, 2002
A Catholic lay review board has finished investigating three Archdiocese of Indianapolis priests without clearing any of them on allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct, said board member Ann DeLaney.
The board's findings now go to Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, who ultimately will decide what to do with the priests. Options range from taking no action at all to excommunicating them from the church.
Buechlein appointed the six-member review panel in August in the aftermath of a priest sex abuse scandal that began in Boston and spread to other communities.
DeLaney would not disclose the board's recommendations or the names of the priests but said the board is reviewing at least two other cases now.
To date, the names of four archdiocesan priests accused of sexual abuse or misconduct have become public:
• Rev. John B. Schoettelkotte of Bristow was placed on administrative leave after the archdiocese substantiated an allegation that he abused a woman 30 years ago.
• Rev. Jack Okon of Indianapolis was placed on leave after being accused of fondling two teenage boys in the 1970s.
• Rev. Micheal H. Kelley resigned from a southern Indiana parish, admitting past sexual misconduct with adults.
• The late Rev. Albert Deery was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing schoolgirls.
The board has investigated some of those priests, said DeLaney, but not all of them. And it isn't reviewing allegations against priests who have died, she said.
The archdiocese has 266 priests who serve about 233,000 Catholics in 150 parishes in 39 counties.
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Susan Borcherts said she could not comment on the recommendations because she hasn't seen them.
Jay Carrigan, vice president of Voice of the Faithful-Indiana, said knowing where the lay board is in the process is a step forward. His group is a lay Catholic organization that supports victims of priest abuse and priests who are not abusers.
The group has been pushing the archdiocese to tell the public how many priests are under investigation, how many victims have come forward and how much money the church has spent to settle cases against priests.
It also wants the archbishop to appoint a victim of priest abuse to the board.
Twice the group has made these requests by letter, the latest sent on Friday.
Borcherts said the second letter had not arrived.
In response to the first letter, Buechlein didn't give the group the information requested. He also dismissed the idea of appointing a victim of priest abuse to the board, referring to counsel he had received from DeLaney, a former Marion County deputy prosecuting attorney.
Putting a victim of abuse on the board wouldn't be fair to priests, DeLaney said.
"It is unrealistic to think that any person traumatized can make judgments without having that trauma impact those judgments," she said.
Voice of the Faithful now wants a summary of the board's recommendations.
"I don't think it ought to be private," Carrigan said. "We don't need particulars, such as times and dates and names of victims.... I would want to make sure that the victims are being treated fairly."
In all, fewer than a dozen alleged victims have been identified through the review process, said DeLaney.
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