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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release

Clergy sex abuse victims want accused molester suspended

For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790

He's accused of sexual misdeeds in Wisconsin but now teaches in Hawaii

Judge in criminal case found evidence of lewd conduct but civil case was dropped

Cleric's former supervisors admit he was suspended and fired in 1988 because of allegations

A former Catholic cleric who has been accused of child sexual abuse and misconduct in Wisconsin now works at a private school in Hawaii and a national support group wants him to be suspended.

Thomas J. Gardipee teaches social studies at Kamehameha School's Kapalama campus. (http://www.ksbe.edu).

(http://kapalama.ksbe.edu/high/home/departments/index.php?id=12, http://blogs.ksbe.edu/ets/files/2009/02/feb_09.pdf)

But in 1992, he was one of five faculty members at a Wisconsin school accused by former students of sexual assault or sexual misconduct in the late 1970s and 1980s. For a while, he was suspended by his employer and faced criminal charges and at least one civil lawsuit. But legal proceedings against him were eventually dropped.

"At least twice, this suspended and accused child molester escaped legal action even though his own employer admitted to having previously fired him for similar sexual misconduct with kids," said Barbara Blaine of Chicago. She's the founder and president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). "Gardipee's Wisconsin church supervisors ousted him. He should be suspended immediately while Hawaiian criminal, church and school officials investigate."

The allegations against Gardipee first came to light in a 1992 Milwaukee Journal investigative series about the school, a Catholic high school seminary called St. Lawrence. It was run by the Detroit-based Capuchin order and was in Mt. Calvary, near Fond du Lac. At the time, Gardipee was a Capuchin friar and the school's athletic director.

Gardipee reportedly gave students condoms, liquor, and erotic magazines. In December 1992, his Capuchin supervisors suspended Gardipee, and revealed that Gardipee had been fired four years earlier for similar allegations.

The following year, the Fond du Lac County prosecutor filed felony criminal charges against Gardipee, alleging that he “enticed a child for immoral purposes and intimidated a victim.”

Those charges were later dropped. ''The judge did seem to find there was lewd and lascivious conduct," said then-prosecutor Thomas Storm, but that is a misdemeanor and outside the statute of limitations. A July 1993 Milwaukee Sentinel article says that the judge ended the case even though he found that “Gardipee had masturbated in front of a boy.”

In April 1993, a 21-year-old alumnus of the Wisconsin school filed a civil lawsuit (believed to be against Gardipee and the Capuchins), charging that Gardipee was “sexually abused, harassed and stalked” him when he was as a 16- or 17-year-old high school student. The next year, that suit was expanded to include claims that the Capuchins were guilty of 'racketeering.'

That legal action was also thwarted in 1995, when, in an unusual ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that the church was constitutionally protected from liability for acts such as negligent supervision of priests and other employees. (The court has since somewhat reversed that finding.)

"It's reckless for a school to knowingly hire a credibly accused child molester," said Blaine of SNAP. "And if Kamehameha didn't know about allegations against Gardipee, they're irresponsible for not checking his past more thoroughly. They need to take steps right now to safeguard the kids in their care."

The Kapalama's campus president and headmaster is Dr. Michael Chun.

The Wisconsin attorney who represented one of Gardippe's alleged victims in a civil suit is Robert L. Elliott, 414-225-9000. Attorney Frank Steeves, 414-276-1122, represented St. Lawrence and Gerald Boyle, 414-343-3300, represented Gardipee. (Boyle also represented serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.) Both lawyers are from Milwaukee.

Other defendants included Fr. Joseph Diermeier (the then-rector of Wisconsin school during some of the allegations), Fr. Kenneth Reinhart (the then-head of the order) and Catholic Mutual Group (an Omaha, Neb., insurance company). Other accused St. Lawrence clerics include Father Gale Leifeld and Brother John Raniszewski. None is believed to be in ministry today.

Gardipee is believed to be in his early 50s now. More information about him and the allegations against him can be found at BishopAccountability.org


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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