Here’s an interesting case, especially to me since I had met this guy. A priest in Virginia Beach was accused of misconduct and removed from his parish. The people of his parish continue to love him and pray for him. i must say that the charges against him seem a little … thin. There are allegations by five people, four of whom are male and four of whom were under 18 (I don’t know if it’s the same subset of four). Some involve “physical contact,” whatever that may entail, but most are “inappropriate conversations with the accusers.” It certainly doesn’t sound like rape.
Fr. Schrader was pastor at St. John the Apostle Church on Sandbridge Road in Va. Beach. For several years in a row, a group of friends from Steubenville and I would head down to one friend’s family’s house on Sandbridge Beach after final exams and we continued the tradition a couple years after graduation. For Mass, we would go to St. John’s, the closest church. Fr. Schrader had a big booming voice and was very orthodox, as far as I could tell.
From the testimony of his parishioners in the story, it sounds like he did a lot of good for the people of his parish. So what’s the answer here? Is it zero tolerance for any corssing of the line? Is he guilty until proven innocent? Should he be removed only if the allegations involved sexual contact or is any sexual misconduct grounds for removal? These are difficult questions. I don’t have the answer. It may be that Fr. Schrader is proven innocent of the accusations, but by then his reputation will have been forever tarnished and the parish he leaves behind has had its faith and trust shaken.
How could we have prevented that?