Diocese releases list of priests accused of sexual abuse

By OLIVIA INGLE
oingle@dcherald.com

The Catholic Diocese of Evansville released Friday the names of its priests who are credibly accused of sexually abusing minors or adults who habitually lack the use of reason.

In response to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in August, the Evansville diocese had announced in September that it would collect and release the names sometime this year.

“The Diocese’s hope is that the listing of these priests will help in the process of healing for those who have been affected by clergy sexual abuse and help to keep minors safe,” a diocese news release says.

Of the 10 diocesan priests and two religious order priests listed, seven of them served at some point in Dubois County. They include: Wilfred Englert, Michael Allen, John Breidenbach, Arthur Mergen, Othmar Schroeder, Richard Wildeman and Warren Heitz.

All of them have at least one credible allegation of at least one act of sexual abuse of a minor or person; however, Englert, was charged and sentenced in Dubois and Orange counties for sexual battery.

The Review Board of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville is also reviewing allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by the late Father Raymond Kuper, who died in 2012. The allegations became public on Feb. 13 during testimony in the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee.

The diocese reported the allegations to civil authorities immediately after receiving them in August 2018.

Kuper served the diocese in several roles through the years, including posts in Ferdinand at St. Ferdinand High School and St. Ferdinand Parish.

Along with compiling the priests’ names that have been published through the years in the diocese’s “The Message,” the diocese also hired a private investigator to review records dating to the diocese’s founding in 1944. The record review began in early October 2018 and ended in mid-December.

A credible claim is one for which, following a review of information, the Diocesan Review Board determined as believable and plausible, and the bishop accepted as credible. A credible claim is also one a priest admitted to or acknowledged.

According to the diocese, every allegation of child abuse must be reported to Child Protective Services, and local law enforcement may also be contacted. If you suspect abuse by any diocesan personnel, report the allegation to the authorities, and inform the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator at 866-200-3004 or 812-490-9565.

“With the help of God’s grace, we will continue as a Diocese to confront the evil of clergy sexual abuse, recognizing the harm it has caused so many over past decades,” Bishop Joseph M. Siegel with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville said in a message released Friday with the list of accused priests.

He added: “Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, may we always look to Jesus for healing, courage, wisdom and strength — that the Church may be renewed in the Lord’s image and likeness.”

Wilfred Englert

Englert was ordained a diocesan priest on May 9, 1986.

He has one credible abuse allegation against him, which according to the diocese, he admitted to.

Englert served in nine different roles within the diocese from the time he was ordained to when he was removed from public ministry on July 26, 2005.

He served as associate pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper starting July 14, 1987; pastor of St. Raphael Catholic Church in Dubois starting June 21, 2000; and administrator at St. Celestine Catholic Church in Celestine starting Aug. 28, 2002. His last post before leaving public ministry was as associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper starting on Jan. 28, 2004.

According to Herald archives, Englert was arrested Aug. 11, 2005, and accused of sexually molesting a 19-year-old, mentally-disabled man. He was charged in Dubois County with two counts of sexual battery, a Class D felony. He was also charged in Orange County with two more counts of sexual battery and one count of deviant sexual conduct, a Class B felony.

Prior the arrest, the diocese had placed Englert on administrative leave July 21, 2005. He was removed from public ministry July 26, 2005.

He was convicted of the sexual battery on Oct. 3, 2006 and was incarcerated until Jan. 15, 2008.

Englert was dispensed from the clerical state within the diocese on Oct. 1, 2009.

Michael Allen

Michael Allen was ordained a diocesan priest on June 5, 1971.

The Evansville diocese’s report indicates he has one allegation of sexual abuse against him and he has admitted to it.

Allen served in 16 different roles in the diocese from June 1971 to July 2002, when he was removed from public ministry.

He served as an associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper three times — starting Aug. 1, 1979; Aug. 3, 1982; and June 5, 1995. His last appointement before being removed from public ministry was as pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Celestine starting on June 27, 2001.

John Breidenbach

Breidenbach was ordained a diocesan priest on Aug. 21, 1987.

According to the report, he has one allegation of sexual abuse against him that occurred prior to him being ordained a deacon. The report indicates he admitted to the abuse.

Breidenbach served in three different capacities in Dubois County from when he was ordained to when he left public ministry on March 14, 2014.

He was an associate pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper starting on June 27, 1990; pastor at Precious Blood Catholic church in Jasper starting on June 9, 2004; and a sacramental minister at St. Mary Church in Ireland starting on Jan. 27, 2010.

Arthur Mergen

Mergen was ordained a diocesan priest on June 4, 1976.

He has two credible allegations of abuse against him.

He served in at least seven different roles in the diocese from the time of his ordination to when he left the Catholic Diocese of Evansville in 1988 without the bishop’s permission.

Locally, he served as associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper starting July 1, 1981. After that role, he served in several other posts before being relieved from his duties on Aug. 17, 1988, and taking up residence at St. Francis Xavier in Vincennes.

He left the diocese that same year.

Mergen died on Dec. 14, 1994.

Othmar Schroeder

Schroeder was ordained a diocesan priest for the Diocese of Indianapolis on June 7, 1938.

He has 18 credible abuse allegations against him, according to the Evansville diocese’s report, although he died Feb. 16, 1988 before the abuse was reported.

He served in more than six different roles within the two dioceses from when he was ordained to when he died. He was associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper starting June 18, 1942. He was pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper starting May 29, 1947.

According to the Evansville diocese’s report, Schroeder also ministered to Boy Scouts from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Richard Wildeman

Wildeman was ordained a diocesan priest on May 13, 1977.

He has one credible abuse allegation against him, which he admitted to.

Wildeman’s various appointments within the diocese included serving as associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper starting June 15, 1977, and serving as associate pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper starting Aug. 3, 1982.

Wildeman left active ministry on May 28, 2002, and was dispensed from the clerical state on Aug. 17, 2007.

Warren Heitz

Heitz was ordained a religious order priest with the Order of St. Benedict on May 1, 1966.

He has two allegations of abuse against him. One allegation was first reported to the St. Meinrad Archabbey and both allegations were determined credible by the St. Meinrad Archabbey Review Board.

Heitz served the Catholic Diocese of Evansville in three different roles from the time of his ordination to when he was removed from public ministry in 2002.

Locally, he was an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Huntingburg starting Jan. 10, 1973.


To see the Catholic Diocese of Evansville’s full report, visit www.evdio.org.




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