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March 24, 2004

Catherine L. Rossi, Director of Communications

The Archdiocese has learned that civil lawsuits involving three priests, one former priest and a former lay teacher have been filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. The Archdiocese has not yet had the opportunity to review these lawsuits.

One lawsuit involves a priest in active ministry, Reverend John P. Schmeer, who is currently Pastor at St. Martin of Tours Parish in New Hope, Bucks County. Allegations were first reported to the Archdiocese against Father Schmeer in March 2002. Father Schmeer denied the allegations and fully cooperated during the investigation in accord with Archdiocesan policies. The Archdiocese forwarded the information regarding the allegations to the appropriate authorities. The Archdiocese also submitted the case to the Archdiocesan Review Board for subsequent investigation. The Review Board conducted its own inquiry, including the use of private investigators, former FBI agents. In November 2003, the Review Board concluded that the allegations against Father Schmeer were not credible.

With regard to others named in the lawsuit:

~The Archdiocese removed Reverend Francis X. Trauger from priestly ministry in December 2003, after the Archdiocese determined that allegations of abuse were deemed credible.

~Reverend Joseph P. Gausch retired from active ministry June 1992 and died May 1999.

~Reverend Ernest A. Durante left the priesthood in 1986.

~Eileen Rhoads left the employment of Holy Cross Parish Elementary School in Springfield, Delaware County in 1994 and has not worked for a school of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since that time.

The Archdiocese would like all the Catholic faithful to know that it takes seriously and investigates thoroughly any allegation of abuse. As part of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Catholic Bishops in June 2002, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has comprehensive policies and programs in place to assist victims of abuse and prevent such abuse from occurring in the future. Among these: a written policy for handling abuse cases, written standards of ministerial behavior for lay and religious employees, a victims outreach assistance program, background checks of all religious and lay personnel who have regular contact with children and a safe environment program for parishes and schools that provides education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children. Anyone who wishes to make a report of sexual abuse of a minor may call the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Victims Assistance Coordinators at 215-587-3880.


Catherine L. Rossi
Director of Communications

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