Ex-Hawaii Priest under Investigation in Illinois

By Blakeman Karen
Honolulu Advertiser
May 6, 2002

A retired priest under investigation in Illinois for alleged sexual misconduct in the early 1970s left Hawaii in 1993, just months ahead of similar allegations made by a Hawaii resident.

Father Lowell Fischer has been retired since 1993, when he left Hawaii after an 18-year stint and began serving as a chaplain for retired women in a convent in Frankfort, Ill. Part of his duties there included conducting mass for the public.

The Catholic Diocese of Joliet in Illinois announced yesterday that Fischer has now been forbidden from presiding over public mass.

Fisher is among four priests removed from public ministry by the Joliet Diocese because of allegations of sexual misconduct. In the cases of Fisher and three other men, the misconduct under investigation occurred more than 25 years ago, according to the Joliet announcement.

The alleged misconduct in Hawaii occurred in 1992, according to a lawsuit filed in circuit court in February 1994. The lawsuit was later settled out of court.

Fischer came to Hawaii in 1975 after requesting a leave of absence from Joliet. According to a newspaper interview with Fischer in 1978, the priest first served as chaplain at St. Francis Hospital, then rotated through various churches on Oahu before becoming associate pastor at St Michael's Church in Waialua.

According to the 1994 lawsuit, a man who was emotionally disabled was referred to Fischer for counseling. After several months, Fischer threatened to withdraw his support unless the man reciprocated with sexual favors.

Neither the alleged victim nor Fischer could be reached for comment last night.

Ward Fujimoto, one of two attorneys who represented Joseph Ferrario, then bishop of Honolulu, and the Church in Hawaii, said last night that the out-of-court settlement contained a confidentiality agreement. "I'm not at liberty to discuss the case."

Sister Judith Davies, Joliet Diocesan chancellor, said a sexual allegation against Fischer, who is 78 years old, was brought to the attention of the Illinois diocese last month, according to an article in today's Chicago Tribune.

Patrick Downes, a spokesman for the Honolulu Diocese and for Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, would not say whether Fischer was one of four priests DiLorenzo said he removed from public ministry after arriving here in 1993, because the diocese has a policy of not releasing their names.

Downes said Fischer was not assigned to the Honolulu Diocese and instead was on leave of absence from Joliet.

DiLorenzo has said that the four priests he removed were officially assigned to the diocese. Downes said priests from the Mainland often come to Hawaii to retire or on leaves from their regular diocese.

"It's relatively common," he said. "We have a bunch of priests here from a variety of places."

According to the Tribune, the Joliet Diocese released the information about the removal of Fischer and three other priests to ward off pending court action that seeks to unseal records of sexual allegations and the diocese's response to them.


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