AK--New pedophile priest records may impact Anchorage bishop
For immediate release: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015
Many predator priest records to be made public
They may shed light on Anchorage Catholic bishop
Files about pedophiles in his old diocese must be released
And documents about his religious order will be turned over too
A recent court order releasing thousands of pages of church records about accused predator priests may shed light on how Anchorage's archbishop handled clergy sex abuse cases in his previous diocese and his religious order.
Last month, a Twin Cities judge ruled that Catholic officials with the Duluth Diocese and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate must make public documents about some predator priests going back 49 years.
For more than a decade, Archbishop Roger Schwietz headed the Duluth diocese, where there are 20 priests who are publicly accused of molesting kids. And for years, he’s been a member of Oblates, a group with roughly 4,300 priests and brothers working in 60 nations. For seven years, Schwietz worked with Oblate seminarians and in 1978, he became head of the Oblates’ college seminary program at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
“This could be one of the largest disclosures ever in the church’s on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “And we suspect that Schwietz’ name will be on dozens or maybe hundreds of these records.”
Clohessy says that the disclosures are “long overdue.”
“For decades, Schwietz and his brother bishops claim they’re starting to be ‘open’ about clergy sex abuse and cover ups case,” he said. “But the truth is they voluntarily release little or no information unless they’re forced to do so by external pressure from judges, journalists, police, prosecutors or civil lawsuits.”
“We strongly suspect that other Oblates who committed or concealed sexual violence remain hidden and that their names will surface when these files actually become public,” said Verne Wagner of Duluth, SNAP's northern Minnesota director. “We urge everyone who saw, suspect or suffered child sex crimes or cover ups by Oblates to come forward, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect kids and start healing.”
A few of the most notorious OMI predators include Fr. Clement A. Hageman (who worked in the dioceses of Corpus Christi, Gallup and Santa Fe), Fr. Carlos Lozano (who worked in Orlando and San Antonio), Fr. Domingo Estrada (who was in Mississippi and Midland and San Antonio) and Fr. Anthony Gonzales (who worked in Houston and Canada).
Hageman was sued for sexually assaulting at least six children. Lozano was convicted for molesting four boys. Estrada was arrested and indicted on charges that he had molested a boy and civilly sued. Gonzalez was defrocked after allegations that he sexually abused and impregnated a homeless 15 year old, was sued, married another girl he abused, and admitted fathering at least eight illegitimate children with young girls.
The Oblates run the Oblate School of Theology and Our Lady of Lourdes of the Southwest parish, both in San Antonio, Texas. They also work with Tekakwitha Indian in Minnesota and South Dakota and operate the Saint Jude Shrine in New Orleans, serving people living in and around the French Quarter.
In Illinois, they run and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville and La Vista Ecological Learning Center in Godfrey. They also once ran Our Lady of the Snows Seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi.
In Canada, the Oblates operated a mission school in British Columbia, founded the University of Ottawa, run Canada's National Shrine to the Holy Lady and have been involved in religious and secular publishing, helping to establish a number of church, community and ethnic newspapers including Ottawa's francophone daily newspaper Le Droit.
The ruling comes in a civil child sex abuse lawsuit against Fr. J. Vincent Fitzgerald, the Oblates, the Duluth diocese and the New Ulm diocese.
The Oblate records are due to be turned over in March.
Fr. Fitzgerald’s alleged victim is represented by St. Paul attorneys Jeff Anderson (651 227 9990, 612 817 8665 cell,firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mike Finnegan (651 227 9990, email@example.com).
Attorney Susan Gaertner represent the Diocese of Duluth.
Information about and a photo of Fr. Fitzgerald is available at BishopAccountability.org