Thursday, October 27, 2005
Group says accused molester is new priest at St. Anselm's
Marin County, Ca. - A small group of sexual abuse survivors gathered outside St. Anselm's Elementary School in San Anselmo yesterday to warn parents that an accused child molester is in their midst.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, say a priest assigned to St. Anselm's Catholic Church on Shady Lane in Ross has been hit with a $4 million civil lawsuit claiming he molested a former Jesuit student in Oregon. St. Anselm's School is around the corner on Belle Avenue in San Anselmo.
The lawsuit - filed Oct. 6 under the initials J.T. to protect the identity of the plaintiff - claims that the Rev. John Schwartz sexually abused him in 1986 and 1987 when he was a student at the Jesuit High School in Beaverton, Ore.
Maurice Healy, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said the Jesuit High School and the Jesuit Province of Oregon are investigating the claims. San Francisco will consider whether to take action based on their findings.
"The information we have is sketchy," Healy said. "We need to find out what the facts are before putting him on administrative leave."
Schwartz would be put on leave for the duration of the legal case if the allegations appear to be credible, Healy said, adding that Schwartz has "vigorously denied" such allegations.
Yesterday SNAP members handed flyers to a few passers-by at St. Anselm's Church before walking to Belle Avenue, where they were more likely to meet parents of young students. They said they wanted families to be aware that Schwartz was in the neighborhood and could be a danger to their children.
"In your child's best interest, we recommend that you be cautious around him," the flyer reads.
Joe Piscitelli, the Bay Area Outreach Coordinator for SNAP, said he believes officials with the Archidiocese of San Francisco are aware of the lawsuit and should take Schwartz out of the ministry - at least until the case is settled.
"This guy is accused of continuous molestation," Piscitelli said. "We want people to know he is here and that the church knows he is here."
Wayne Presley, who came from San Mateo County yesterday to hand out flyers, said victims like him are speaking out to protect others, who might be vulnerable.
"We feel we are the truth and that is what we are trying to get out," Presley said. "We stand for the truth and obviously the church doesn't."
SNAP members say they want the archdiocese to apologize for Schwartz's presence in Marin, and for San Francisco Bishop John Wester, who they say made the assignment, to visit San Anselm's and Marin Catholic High School to urge anyone who may have witnessed or experienced abuse at the hands of Schwartz to go to the police.
The archdiocese asserted that Schwartz has never been accused of wrongdoing before and that there have not been any problems reported in the four years that Schwartz has been serving in this area.
"Children are not at risk," Healy said.
Margo Enblm, a Belle Avenue neighbor, said her two school-age children go to a different school and are not old enough to go out on their own, so she wasn't really worried. "I think I'm glad to know it," Enblm said.
Kathleen Livermore, who was in her car waiting for her child to be released from school, said she was completely surprised when she read the flyer but did not feel ready to comment.
"I had no idea," Livermore said.
See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.
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