Catholic Parishioners in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese Should Be Demanding Explanations
A retired priest from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has been charged with multiple counts of child sexual abuse. We are grateful to the Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney for bringing this case forward, but we believe the local faithful should pay close attention to the timeline and ask their leaders some difficult questions about whether or not the Dallas Charter was followed.
Fr. Frederick Lutz is being prosecuted for offenses alleged to have happened between January and February 2000 at the Public School Religion Classesat St. Joseph Parish in Advance, Missouri. The teen-aged boy reported to his father at the time, and the father is said to have reported to the PSR teacher. According to a media report, the teacher told Fr. Lutz about the allegation, and the cleric apparently made an admission to the father and apologized for his conduct.
Catholics in Springfield-Cape Girardeau should demand to know if any diocesan officials were told about this incident, and if there have been any efforts to unearth records of other incidents in facilities under diocesan control. If the diocese had this information, it seems to us that the priest should have been removed from ministry then and there. But at the very least, if it was known, Fr. Lutz should have been made to step down when the Dallas Charter went into effect in 2002, promising "zero tolerance" for the sexual abuse of children.
We note that the diocese included Fr. Lutz on its list of "Priests with allegations of sexual abuse of a minor," which was published on November 19, 2018. According to the linked press release, the clergyman was accused of abuse in the early 1970s and "civil authorities" were notified of the allegation.
According to news reports, this allegation from the the 1970s came to light again in a review of the diocesan records given to the Missouri Attorney General in 2019. Investigators say this incident was alleged to have occurred in 1972, which was before Fr. Lutz was ordained a priest, and that it was reported to the diocese in 2006. In response to the cleric's arrest last week, Springfield-Cape Girardeau issued a statement saying that they reported the allegations to the prosecutor in Stoddard County, apparently when the allegations were initially made.
Catholics in Springfield-Cape Girardeau should be wondering why a priest with two sets of allegations against him, one reported in 2000 and another in 2006, remained in active ministry until 2011. They should want to understand what happened in this case, and if the promises of the Dallas Charter were ignored or not. Did the diocese never receive a report of the 2000 incident? Even if Catholic officials were not aware of those allegations, why was Fr. Lutz allowed to remain in ministry after the 2006 allegations? When the county prosecutor apparently declined to move forward in 2006, were the allegations deemed "not credible" by the diocese? Why? If the allegations were "not credible" in 2006, why was Fr. Lutz named in the diocesan list twelve years later?
SNAP is concerned about the possible violations of the Dallas Charter in this case, and hopes that parishioners will be as well. We think that Catholics in Springfield-Cape Girardeau should be demanding answers from their diocesen officials, because paper policies that are not enforced will not protect their children.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP San Francisco ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)