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Priest Quits Amid Abuse Allegations

Feb 12, 2003 | Henderson Gleaner A Perry County, Ind., priest accused of sexual misconduct has resigned after a church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse.

The Rev. John B. Schoettelkotte, pastor at Holy Cross Catholic Church in St. Croix, Ind., and St. Isidore the Farmer Catholic Church in Bristow, Ind., resigned after church officials substantiated an allegation of abuse involving a teenage girl more than 30 years ago.

Schoettelkotte resigned in response to recommendations from Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and a board set up to review allegations of clergy abuse, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said in a brief statement released Monday.

Schoettelkotte, 69, had been on administrative leave since June, after allegations he engaged in sexual misconduct with girls and women.

The archdiocese would not say if the priest admitted to the allegations. Nor have church officials apparently given any details about their internal investigation to the priest's alleged victim, June Kochert of New Albany, Ind. "This should have been over months ago,'' said Kyle Williams, Kochert's attorney. "It didn't need to take this long." Williams filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese last August on Kochert's behalf, claiming church officials repeatedly ignored her reports that she was sexually abused by Schoettelkotte in the 1960s. At the time, Schoettelkotte was a priest at St. Mary Catholic Church in New Albany.

Williams said church officials told him Schoettelkotte chose to resign rather than to take part in a psychiatric evaluation and treatment program at St. Luke Institute, a Silver Spring, Md., psychiatric hospital that treats Catholic priests who have sexually abused minors.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which includes parishes in South Central and Southeastern Indiana, has not disclosed Schoettelkotte's location.

In the lawsuit against the archdiocese, Kochert's attorney claims a coverup by church officials.

The lawsuit, filed in Floyd County, Ind., claims church officials failed to report Kochert's complaints to police more than 30 years ago and concealed the allegations until they were forced to reveal them under a new national disclosure policy that Catholic bishops adopted last summer. In the lawsuit, Kochert alleges that the abuse began when she was 15 and enrolled as a student at Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., where Schoettelkotte was a counselor.

Kochert said she had gone to Schoettelkotte for counseling, and that he initiated a sexual relationship that continued for two years.

She alleges that she reported the abuse to church officials three times, beginning in 1969, but that church officials failed to take disciplinary action against the priest.

Instead, she contends, Schoettelkotte was sent away for treatment, then quietly transferred to another parish in Bloomington, Ind.

Williams said his client wants to resolve the lawsuit, but wants the church to be candid about its alleged role in the matter. So far, that hasn't happened, said Williams.

"I think that's what disappoints me the most," Williams said. "The (Catholic) Church is in the business of right and wrong, and with any other issue they claim to be within their spiritual realm, they don't have a problem speaking out. But the minute you put money (for victims of abuse) in the equation, then everybody becomes a lawyer, and they claim they can't talk."

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