Priest admitted sexual addiction prior to abuse allegations, records show

The Courier-Journal, Kentucky/August 24, 2011

A Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing two boys in the 1970s told the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1985 that he was a sexual addict, but church officials put him in treatment instead of removing him because they believed he was involved with men, not boys, according to court records released Tuesday.

In addition, the Rev. James R. Schook admitted to church officials in the mid-1990s that he had given a man money in exchange for sex, according to the records. The archdiocese referred him to a counselor.

Schook was removed from the ministry last year by the archdiocese after several men complained that they were abused by Schook when they were teenagers in the 1970s.

He now faces three counts of sodomy in the second degree and four counts of sodomy in the third degree in Jefferson Circuit Court. Six of the charges involve incidents with a boy from 1971 to 1974. The seventh involves an incident with a second boy between 1974 to 1975.

He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney, David Lambertus, declined to comment.

He remains a priest but has been forbidden to do public ministry or present himself as a priest.

Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said Tuesday that Schook’s confession three decades ago about his sexual addiction was not enough to remove him from ministry then because there were no claims of illegal activity.

He also said there had been no complaints about sexual abuse of children nor any other allegations after Schook finished his treatment — until 2009.

Schook’s sexual encounters with men became known after he had two car wrecks in late 1985 and later entered a residential treatment program at Our Lady of Peace, according to the archdiocese records.

Reynolds told police in a 2009 interview that Schook received counseling and treatment that included a 12-step sexual addiction program.

According to court records, a former Trinity student said he told a counselor at the high school in 1985 that he had been abused by Schook while on a camping trip. The former student also said he told the counselor, who is not named in the records, about other teens who were abused.

That same former student contacted Reynolds in June 2009 to ask why Schook remained an active pastor even though the abuse had been reported.

But Reynolds said the archdiocese has no record of the allegation.

“We don’t know who was told what,” he said. “We have no record of that. I don't want to say that it didn’t occur, but we have no record of that.”

In 2009, when confronted about the accusation, Schook “neither admitted nor denied” it had happened and was encouraged to seek legal counsel, according to court records.

“I am surprised this surfaced,” the notes from the archdiocese quote Schook as saying when asked about the former student’s allegation. Schook has not been charged in relation to the allegation.

The court records also contain a letter written to the Rev. Joseph Hart in May 1986 regarding Schook by the then-director of clergy personnel, the Rev. William Fichteman, saying Fichteman was aware of a “sexual-acting-out problem that came to my attention a few months ago.”

“Thus it would seem that sexual adjustment should be one of the issues to be dealt with at the House of Affirmation” in Mass, Fichteman wrote, also noting that Schook had an issue with alcohol and recently had had two wrecks, one of which ended with his car totaled.

Then-Archbishop Thomas Kelly approved Schook’s treatment.

A memo from Kelly placed in Schook’s file in April 1987 said Schook had accepted his sexual addiction, and his re-entry would take place in a few months.

Schook became a pastor in 1988 and worked with the deaf community.

“We had no complaints of any nature after that,” Reynolds said in an interview.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz temporarily removed Schook from ministry in July 2009 — when he was serving as pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Church on Rangeland Road — after the archdiocese received the first in a series of complaints alleging that Schook sexually abused boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

Schook was ordained in 1975.

The archdiocese announced in March 2010 that Schook's suspension from ministry became permanent after its Sexual Abuse Review Board concluded that allegations against him were valid.

In July 2009, Reynolds said he called the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office but was referred to Powell County, because one of the first abuse complaints allegedly occurred while on a trip to that area. But Reynolds told police he never received a response.

Authorities here became involved after a complaint involving allegations in Jefferson County, Reynolds said.

In his interview with police, Reynolds said one of the victims in the case demanded money, refused to meet with them and threatened to go to the press and police.

Reynolds said he told the victim they would not pay him any money.

In an interview on Tuesday, Reynolds said the victim asked for money and was instructed the proper step was to contact the police.

According to court records, the victim told police Schook became close to his family when he was a teenager, about 14, and had oral sex with him, took pictures of him and sexually abused him.

The other victim was 13 when the abuse began, the records say. Schook was a seminary student when the abuse began at the boy’s home while his parents were away, the records say.

Schook is the sixth current or former priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville to face criminal charges related to sexual abuse. All five previous cases led to convictions.

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