Archive for Saturday, May 4, 2002

Police take over priest case

May 4, 2002


Shawnee Police now are heading the investigation of alleged sexual misconduct by a Catholic priest formerly based in Lawrence, a state welfare official said Friday.

The Rev. Dennis Schmitz, 41, was removed Thursday from his duties at parishes in Marysville and Beattie. Schmitz lived in Lawrence from the mid-1990s until July 2001, serving as vocation director for the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan.

Few details about the case have been divulged. Shawnee Police did not return calls seeking comment.

Schmitz has not been charged in the case.

Those who know Schmitz from his time in Lawrence were dismayed a day after word of the allegations reached Lawrence.

"Everybody's really upset and distressed. Most people just don't believe it," said the Rev. Vince Krische, director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, 1631 Crescent Road.

For at least six years, Schmitz lived in the church-owned Fiat House across the street from St. Lawrence, which serves the spiritual needs of KU Catholics. Roughly 2,000 students are registered with the center, which has a staff of 19 full-time workers.

"He was not a part of my staff or our program," Krische said. "Naturally he had contact with people, students and faculty."

'My brother'

Krische said he had no details of the allegations against Schmitz, but that the investigation made personal the sexual abuse crisis facing the church.

"He's one of my brother priests in the archdiocese," he said.

The campus ministry received calls Friday from Lawrence Catholics expressing faith in Schmitz, and concern for him.

Krische spoke highly of Schmitz.

"He is really well-loved. He's a very dynamic, energetic, good priest," he said. "He would lead a lot of tours through Europe. He really knew how to guide people through Rome and the holy places."

A native of Axtell, Schmitz attended Benedictine College in Atchison and was ordained in 1989. Other parishes where he has served include St. Ann's in Prairie Village and Queen of the Holy Rosary in Overland Park.

Schmitz was pastor of St. Gregory's Parish in Marysville and St. Malachy's Parish in Beattie. The archdiocese said Thursday he had been relieved of his duties and placed on indefinite leave.

The archdiocese reported the allegations to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services in Overland Park, said SRS spokeswoman Stacey Herman. SRS took a report on Schmitz but turned the case over to law enforcement officers in the Shawnee Police Department.

Other complaints

Herman wouldn't say whether turning the allegations over to Shawnee Police indicated the alleged incidents had occurred there, or that the alleged victim lived there.

Johnson County Dist. Atty. Paul Morrison said Friday the KBI might get involved. He declined to release other details.

Charles McGlinn, the archdiocese's vicar general for priest personnel, said he did not know when the alleged incidents had occurred but said they were the only ones ever received against Schmitz.

The archdiocese also is investigating complaints about four other priests. McGlinn said two of the priests were dead and one was retired with no assignment in the diocese. The allegations against the four date back from 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 about 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 to 1964.

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