Diocese Knew of Abuse Allegations Against Priest and Kept Him in Ministry Anyway
Despite knowing of “credible” allegations against one of their priests in 2002, Catholic officials from the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau reportedly allowed the priest to continue working for nine more years, exposing countless more children to harm and reneging on their promise to enforce “zero tolerance” against clerics accused of abuse the very same year that promise was first made.
Once again, Church leadership has acknowledged years later that they kept children at risk of abuse only after secular officials in law enforcement intervened. Fr. Frederick Lutz was arrested last week on charges that he sexually abused a young parishioner in 2000. Yet the arrest should have happened much earlier, especially since Catholic officials have acknowledged they were aware of the allegations as early as 2002, and they should have been made aware of both the complaint and an apparent admission as early as 2000.
We do not know why police were not able to move forward with charges against Fr. Lutz in 2002, but were suddenly able to do so now. We do not know why when a second allegation was reported to law enforcement, in either 2006 or 2016, there was still no arrest. We suspect that it may be because police were not given full access to information held by the Diocese. Only after the Attorney General in Missouri got involved was action finally taken. We can only worry about how many other clerics like Fr. Lutz had complaints against them, but were not able to be properly investigated.
We hope this story encourages other victims and witnesses to come forward and make a report to police and prosecutors first, before making a report to Catholic officials. It is clear that only when information is given directly to law enforcement – instead of relayed to them by Church staffers – is there an opportunity for real justice.
CONTACT: 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)