Springfield-Cape Girardeau Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer
Many families are drawn to the Roman Catholic Church for the spiritual guidance of the Vatican and Pope Francis. The religious community provides instructions on their faith through services and actions. For millennia, the Church has set high standards that must be followed by the faithful based on the Bible’s words that have remained fundamentally unchanged. Sadly, many religious leaders abuse their authority of trust between themselves and parishioners by sexually assaulting minors and vulnerable adults.
For more than seventy years, Church officials and religious orders have hidden evidence of credible accusations made against priests and other religious leaders who sexually assaulted innocent victims. Some of these leaders have included cardinals, bishops, religious order priests, deacons, brothers, nuns, and laypersons.
Most sexual molesters use some sort of authority over others to gain power. As a priest, brother, or deacon in the religious community, the clergy member can seek out innocent parishioners as their prey. Typically, the priest will sexually abuse their victims in any location that is easily accessible to both of them, including a place of worship, daycare centers, Christian summer camps, Sunday schools, Bible study class, University campus, or a church-related function.
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Sexual Abuse Lawyers
So far, the United States Roman Catholic Church as paid claimants and plaintiffs more than $3.8 billion in settlements to resolve sexual abuse victim cases. The negotiated agreements have involved religious leaders from nearly every position of hierarchical authority in the Church.
By Church doctrine, the religious leaders are required to provide every parishioner with an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. Sadly, many clergy members violate their authority and victimize innocent souls leaving them in shame and fear.
If you are a sexual abuse survivor and were harmed by a priest or other religious leader, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC today. Let us discuss your case in a confidential standing.
Our legal team understands the pain you feel and the unique dynamics you face when pushing back against the Roman Catholic Church. Let us stand by your side and provide empathetic, compassionate support. We will take legal action against Church officials that hid the evidence and the predator who caused your harm.
Why Sexual Assault Survivors Remain Silent
Many parishioners in the Roman Catholic Church will develop a trusting, close relationship with the parish priest or other church leader. This connection helps to strengthen their spiritual guidance to God.
Unfortunately, when the predatory priest uses their authority to molest his prey, the victim often feels intimidated. They fear that if they spoke out and told others what happened, the abuser could assault them again. Many sexual assault survivors are victims of child sex abuse, rape, sodomy, child pornography, or oral sex engaged by Church leaders that might be a coach, teacher, religious women, or layperson.
Typically, it takes years or decades for a sexual abuse survivor just to talk to others about what happened or confront their abuser. Their bravery is immeasurable when they stand up to the authority that sexually assaulted them to ensure that the predator and complicit Church officials are held accountable.
Obtaining Church Information Has Been Difficult
For years, sexual molestation advocates have worked to identify and publicize the individual names of clergy members who face allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. Currently, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau contained the names of twenty-two religious order priests and brothers facing credible allegations against them. Their accusers have identified them as sexual molesters.
The twenty-two diocesan priests are just a small part of the growing problem of predatory religious leaders throughout Missouri. Currently, the total number of documented clergy sex abusers is more than 190 statewide, including in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Diocese of Jefferson City, and Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Some of these diocesan priests and other clergy members have been found guilty or accused of sexual molestation involving children and young adults.
Prosecutors Receive Sexual Assault Evidence on a Former Springfield-Cape Girardeau Priest
In April 2020, Catholic Church officials from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced the recent allegations involving Father Gary Carr. The Church accused him of sexually molesting a minor almost three decades ago.
The sixty-six-year-old former Reverend allegedly assaulted an underage male for years. At the time of the alleged crimes, the victim was ten to thirteen years of age.
Documents reveal that Carr had been assigned to cleric work in Springfield and lived in the area back in 2004. The diocesan priest retired from active ministry in November 2020. However, Church officials, including Bishop Edward Rice, restricted his activity in the Roman Catholic Church and withdrew his priestly faculties in 2008.
Information released by the prosecutor revealed that Reverend Carr had allegedly abused a minor. An investigation conducted by the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Safe Environment Review Board found that there was a “semblance of truth” to the allegations of sexual abuse and publicized the information. Church officials also forwarded the Diocese report to the prosecutor’s office.
During Carr’s career, he was assigned to the Springfield, MO Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish as an associate pastor beginning in December 1982. Currently, Carr resides in St. Louis. A spokesperson for the Diocese stated that in 2008, Church officials placed the Reverend on administrative leave because he violated boundaries. However, the Church failed to take action against the diocesan priest at that time.
In March 2020, the Stoddard County prosecuting attorney’s office filed charges against another religious leader, Frederick Lutz, accused of sexual assault in 2000. Lutz faced potential criminal prosecution with the state Attorney General in Stoddard County on charges of statutory sodomy and sexual molestation.
In September 2019, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt identified a dozen religious leaders facing possible criminal prosecution due to inappropriate sexual activity with minors. Schmitt’s comprehensive investigation of priests, brothers, sisters, and other religious leaders found evidence in the Jefferson City Diocese, Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The Effects of Sexual Molestation Involving Children and Young Adults
Not all the signs and symptoms of sexual assault occurring to minors and young adults are apparent to others. However, the victim’s parents, friends, and family members need to understand the warning signs of child sex abuse that could include:
- Ongoing depression
- Unexplained anger issues
- Unusual sexual behavior
- Unexplained disconnect from family, friends, and classmates
- Unexpected negative changes in their personality
- Difficulty making friends
- Engaging in criminal activity and non-social behaviors
The child’s place of worship should be a safe environment. The child should be able to seek out help, counseling, and assistance from all religious leaders at Church or school. Unfortunately, clergy child abusers often target minor children, teenagers, and young adults in the congregation at different religious venues, including the Church, the rectory, in the confessional, at school, summer camp, or other Catholic organization-related venue. Many boys and girls are sexually assaulted when working for the congregation as an altar server.
Do you suspect that your loved one was sexually assaulted by a diocesan priest, bishop, cardinal, parish pastor, or another religious leader? If so, taking immediate action could be essential to maintain their health.
An attorney working on your behalf can ensure that your rights are protected when seeking financial compensation paid by the Springfield Cape Girardeau Diocese.
Hiring a Springfield / Cape Girardeau Diocese Sexual Abuse Lawyer
If you are the victim of rape, molestation, sodomy, or other heinous sexual abuse by a religious leader, contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757. We can schedule a free case consultation to discuss what happened to you in a private, confidential setting. With our years of experience and comprehensive understanding of Missouri civil tort law, we can ensure a successful resolution to your compensation case.
Our compassionate attorneys understand the delicate nature of what happened to you, and the difficulty you might have been discussing intimate details. Be assured that we will provide a safe environment and diligently listen to your story to ensure you can obtain justice and seek compensation.
Jonathan Rosenfeld accepts all personal injury cases through contingency fee arrangements. This agreement ensures all your services and legal fees are paid only after we have successfully resolved your case through a jury trial award or a negotiated settlement.
We are currently accepting cases where the predatory priest is still in “active ministry,” removed from the priesthood (laicized), on a leave of absence, retired, removed from their religious order, or deceased. Time is of the essence. All the necessary paperwork in filing a claim for compensation must be filed in the appropriate county courthouse before the state statute of limitations expires.
List of Clergy Abusers in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Dioceces
Barron, Wayne J.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Wayne J. Barron with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Church documents reveal that the allegations involving sexual abuse occurred in 1972, and were reported to the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese in 2003. The Church removed the priest from active ministry.
Current Status: Removed from active ministry
Brath, John A.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father John A. Brath with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. From 1971 until 1974, Reverend Brath served in the Air Force. He retired from the priesthood in 2007. The alleged incidents of sexual assault involving a child occurred during the 1970s.
Current Status: Died: 2014
In April 2020, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced that the Diocesan Review Board found a “semblance of truth” to allegations of sexual conduct involving Father Gary Carr. The alleged sexual molestation had occurred three decades before when the priest engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with an underage male. At the time of the alleged assault, the victim was between ten and thirteen years old. The Church placed Reverend Carr on administrative leave in 2008 with restricted ministry responsibilities because he had violated the boundaries with minors. In November 2019, Reverend Carr retired from the priesthood.
Current Status: Retired from active ministry
Chambers, Leonard R.
The Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese Bishop Bernard law responded to the allegations against Father Leonard R. Chambers involving sexual misconduct that occurred in 1981. He reassigned Reverend Chambers to receive extended treatment before relocating him to two other parishes in the Diocese. In the mid-1990s, Bishop Leibrecht placed restrictions on Father Chambers’ active ministry. By 1998, Church officials permanently removed the priest from active ministry after he violated the order that forbade him to be alone with a minor. During Reverend Chambers’ career, he had been assigned work at twenty-two parishes. In 2006, the Vatican laicized (defrocked – removed from the priesthood) Chambers. Church documents show that he was last known to be living in Joplin, Missouri.
Current Status: Laicized – Removed from the priesthood by Vatican in 2006
Craig, Walter G J
In 2012, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced that Church officials had received a credible allegation involving Father Walter G J Craig’s inappropriate sexual misconduct. The accusation involved sexual molestation of an underage male during the 1960s. At the time of the alleged assault, Church officials had assigned Father Craig to the New Madrid, MO Immaculate Conception Parish. Reverend Craig was ordained for the Roman Catholic Church for the St. Louis Archdiocese. In 1956, he transferred to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau when the Diocese was first established. Father Craig’s name appears on the 2018 Springfield-Cape Girardeau’s list and the 2019 Archdiocese of St. Louis list.
Current Status: Died: 1971
In December 2006, Church officials at the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced they had received a complaint two months earlier concerning Father Eugene Deragowski’s inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. The sexual molestation allegedly occurred in the 1960s. A second accuser came forward in January 2007, alleging that the priest had sexually assaulted them during the 1960s. Before the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was created, Reverend Deragowski was ordained and worked for the Kansas City, Missouri Diocese. His name appears on the September 2019 Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s list and the November 2018 Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese list.
Current Status: Died: 1981
Donovan, William E.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father William E. Donovan with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. The alleged sexual misconduct involved a minor in 1968. By November 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced that Church officials had received an additional allegation of sexual misconduct that occurred between 1968 and 1972, three years before Donovan’s death.
Current Status: Died: 1975
Ernstmann, Mark C.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Monsignor Mark C. Ernstmann with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. The accusations of inappropriate sexual contact allegedly occurred during the 1970s with a seventeen-year-old. In 2002, the first reports were made to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Other allegations arose in 2018. In 2004, Reverend Ernstmann retired from the Ministry. His name appears on the September 2019 Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese list.
Current Status: Died: 2013
Gregovich, Lawrence E.
In 1992, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau forced Father Lawrence E. Gregovich to retire from active ministry after allegations arose of sexual misconduct. The alleged sexual abuse occurred between 1982 and 1985 and involved three underage males. At the time of the alleged molestation, Reverend Gregovich served as the New Madrid, MO Immaculate Conception Parish pastor. In 1992, one of the alleged victim’s parents stepped forward to make a complaint. In May 2017, three months after the priest’s death, Church officials for the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese announced a new allegation of sexual misconduct involving Gregovich that occurred from the late 1970s until the early 1980s. Father Gregovich’s name appears on the November 2017 Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau list.
Current Status: Died: 2017
Juda, Stephen A.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Stephen A. Juda with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Church documents reveal that the incident occurred in 1972 and was reported to Church officials in 2004. The priest of the Congregation of the Resurrection Order died at age 91 in 2006.
Current Status: Died: 2006
Lutz, Frederick J.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Frederick J. Lutz with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. The Church conducted an internal investigation concerning the accusation involving one victim. The results of the investigation substantiated the allegation. Church notes indicate that Reverend Lutz allegedly sexually molested an underage child during the early 1970s. In 2006, the alleged victim spoke with the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and said that Father Lutz had sexually assaulted him in 1972. At the time of the alleged assault at Cape Girardeau St. Mary’s Parish, the victim was seventeen years old. Between 1981 and 1987, and again in 2009, Church officials placed Reverend Lutz on a leave of absence. He retired from the priesthood in 2011. The Missouri Attorney General’s office investigated the allegation and arrested Lutz in February 2020, charging him with multiple counts of child sex abuse. The charges included forcible sodomy of a seventeen-year-old male in 2000 that occurred in the Advance, MO St. Joseph’s Parish rectory. Allegedly, a Catholic school teacher became aware of the incident of sexual abuse just days after it occurred. Father Lutz had apologized to the victim’s father. In February 2020, the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese acknowledged that they knew of the allegations of sexual misconduct back in 2002. Lutz as so far has pled not guilty to the charges.
Current Status: Retired from active ministry
Marquart, Ernest (Ernie)
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Ernest (Ernie) Marquart with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Church notes revealed that Reverend Marquart’s personnel record containS an allegation of sexual misconduct in 2003. The document states that the priest took inappropriate photographs of underage children swimming in the 1980s. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau restricted Reverend Ernie Marquart’s ministering to the congregation.
Current Status: Accused of sexual misconduct
In October 2002, an alleged victim of Father Paul McHugh accused the priest of sexually abusing him in 1982. At the time of the alleged assault, the victim was a boy. On two occasions, the alleged victim spoke with Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop Bernard Law about what happened with Reverend McHugh. However, the Bishop told the victim he did not want to hear the details and not to discuss it with anyone else. In June 1983, Father McHugh passed away. At that time, Bishop Bernard Law was presiding on weekend masses in the victim’s Parish that lasted for two months. The alleged victim stated that he had approached the Bishop to discuss what happened for the second time. The priest’s name appears on the November 2018 Diocese list.
Current Status: Died: 1983
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Edgar Probstfield with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Allegedly, the sexual assault involving Father Edgar Probstfield, a.k.a. Victor David Probstfield, happened in the 1970s. Church officials became aware of the allegations in 2014. Reverend Probstfield’s name appears on the August 2019 Conception Abbey Benedictines list. The priest is the brother of Reverend Regis Probstfield (O. S. B.), who has also been accused of sexual misconduct (see below).
Current Status: Died: 2007
Rynish, John J.
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father John J. Rynish with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. The alleged sexual molestation involving a minor occurred during the early 1970s. Church officials allowed Monsignor Rynish to retire in 1993. His name appears on the September 2019 Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph list.
Current Status: Died: 2001
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Mark Santo with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. The alleged sexual assault occurred during the 1960s and was reported to the Casey-St. Joseph Diocese in 2018, five years after the Servite Order priest’s death.
Current Status: Died: 2013
Schneider, Stephen A.
In February 2006, Church officials at the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau removed Father Stephen Schneider from his position at the Joplin, MO St. Peter the Apostle Parish. The Church received accusations of Reverend Schneider’s inappropriate sexual contact with a child that allegedly occurred in December 2005. Church records did not identify any additional information over the alleged sexual assault. The local District Attorney’s Office did not file criminal charges. Church officials stated that although his actions violated the policies the Roman Catholic Church, they did not break the law.
Current Status: Died: 2016
Shibley, Amel A.
In 1993 and again in 1995, Father Amel A. Shibley faced accusations that he sexually molested two underage males in the 1980s. Reportedly, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau investigated the allegations during the 1980s. In 1997, Church officials allowed the Reverend Shibley to return to active ministry on a part-time basis. At that time, he served as an administrator with restrictions at another Church. In March 2002, the Roman Catholic Church placed Reverend Shibley on a leave of absence again and then permanently removed his priestly faculties. The Reverend’s name appears on the November 2018 Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese list.
Current Status: Died: 2002
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Bernard Vedder with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Church documents reveal that the sexual abuse involving Reverend Vedder happened during the 1960s. Church officials became aware of the allegations in 1995, two years after Vedder’s death. He was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Current Status: Died: 1993
Wellinger, Wallace G.(Wally)
In 2019, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau publicly named Father Wallace G.(Wally) Wellinger with credible allegations of sexual misconduct involving an innocent victim. Allegedly, Reverend Wellinger sexually molested an underage child during the 1960s. In 1976, the Vatican laicized (defrocked – removed from the priesthood) Wellinger, who later married. The case was settled in Austin, Texas.
Current Status: Died: 2007
In February 2018, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced that Church officials had received an accusation that Father John Wells had sexually molested a child during the late 1960s. At the time of the alleged assault, the Church assigned Reverend Wells to the St. Joseph’s Parish in Advance and Saint Anthony Mission in Glennon as pastor. Father Wells had been ordained for the Indianapolis Archdiocese before his incarnation in 1964 to the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese.
Current Status: Died: 1972
In December 2007, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau announced that Church officials had received a credible allegation against Father Louis Wyrsch that involved sexual abuse of a child about four decades before. During Reverend Wyrsch’s career, he was assigned to parishes in Joplin and Poplar Bluff before he left the Diocese in 1969. Later, he was reassigned to the Southwest Missouri State College as a chaplain in 1970. In 1973, Father Wyrsch left the ministry again. By 1989, the Vatican laicized (defrocked – removed from the priesthood) Wyrsch. He passed away in 1997. His name appears on the November 2018 Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau list.
Current Status: Died: 1997