Priests accused of abusing kids named
ST. PAUL – After months of dialogue, the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates and the Diocese of New Ulm jointly disclosed on Tuesday the names of 16 former priests who were mutually identified as being credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor while they were assigned as priests.
The list includes these priests – Cletus Altermatt, Dennis Becker, Gordon Buckley, Robert Clark, J. Vincent Fitzgerald, John Gleason, Joseph Louis Heitzer, Rudolph Henrich, Harry Majerus, Francis Markey, William Marks, John Murphy, David Roney, Douglas Schleisman, Michael Skoblik and Charles Stark.
Thirteen of the accused have died, and all but one was previously named in media reports. Fitzgerald, Heitzer, Henrich and Majerus had credible accusations made against them while working in another diocese, but had no credible accusations made against them while serving in the New Ulm Diocese.
In conjunction with release of the list, attorney Jeff Anderson & Associates held a press conference in St. Paul on Tuesday morning. During the event two women, Kim Schmit and Lori Stoltz, spoke on the abuse they experienced from Roney.
Schmit said that as a youth in 1968 Roney forced her into a corner and abused her after school. She reported the incident to her parents who then complained to the diocese. Schmit’s family was informed actions would be taken against Roney; however, the diocese simply relocated him to another parish where he continued to abuse other victims. Schmit later became friends with Stoltz, and both were horrified to learn they had been abused by the same priest despite diocese promises.
In a statement released to the press, New Ulm Diocese Bishop John LeVoir stated “It is important that we recognize the credible accusation made against these men and acknowledge the terrible harm done by abuse in Church ministry.”
The New Ulm Diocese was the last diocese in Minnesota to release a list of credibly accused priests. All previous dioceses that compiled a list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abused have released the names to the public.
The Rev. Douglas Grams spoke on behalf of the New Ulm Diocese, saying the delay was needed to mutually work with Jeff Anderson & Associates to accurately name the priests with credible allegations involving a minor.
“We recognized that the knowledge and disclosure of the names help in the healing process for the victims and survivors,” said Grams.
Grams gave assurances that if further creditable evidence comes forward implicating a new priest, the diocese is prepared to release that information. “We continue to stay in a collaborative dialogue with Jeff Anderson & Associates concerning this matter,” he said.
Asked how the New Ulm Diocese would handle any new accusations, Grams said that the diocese will immediately report all accusations to law enforcement and encourage victims and survivors to come to the diocese. The diocese is choosing to error on the side of caution. If an accusation is made against a priest, he will be removed from the ministry.
“So far the parishioners in the New Ulm area and the people I work with in the 15-county area are supportive of the church’s efforts to encourage victims and survivors to come forward,” said Grams.
In addition the diocese has offered to assist in counseling, spiritual direction and the healing process. “I think they want to see healing for everyone,” Grams said.
LeVoir has been on the forefront of meeting and praying with victims and survivors, Grams said.
A letter is sent to each household of each parish where the accused priest served to alert the parishioners of the credible allegation and to continue to encourage victims and survivors to come forward. The church has taken other steps to prevent abuse of minors.
Grams explained that for the better part of a decade the diocese has required all priests, deacons, teachers, parents and volunteers who work with youth to submit their names for background checks, to abide by a code of conduct and participate in programs that help to identify and prevent sexual misconduct.
“The Diocese of New Ulm is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent about clergy who have abused children,” said attorney Jeff Anderson. “This agreement to release information is an important step in transparency and child protection and safety. We will continue to work together to put this commitment into action, and we encourage other possible survivors to step forward.”
Anderson encouraged any victims of child sex abuse to come forward within the next 58 days. The Minnesota Child Victims Act permits lawsuits for older claims of clergy sex abuse within a three-year window. This window expires on May 25.
The names of credibly accused men along with their assignment histories and additional information are posted on the website of Jeff Anderson & Associates (www.andersonadvocates.com) and the Diocese of New Ulm (www.dnu.org).