The Archdiocese of Detroit released a statement today concerning Rev. Gary Schulte (66), pastor of St. Sylvester Parish in Warren, Michigan, who has been put on administrative leave following an accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor in the early years of his priesthood.
Effective October 28, 2011, Fr. Gary Schulte, 66, pastor of St. Sylvester Parish in Warren, Michigan, has been placed on an administrative leave of absence by the Archdiocese of Detroit and is currently restricted from any public ministry.
In September an allegation of sexual misconduct with a person under the age of 18 involving Fr. Schulte dating back to the early years of his ministry in the Detroit archdiocese was received by the Victim Assistance Coordinator. Subsequently, the complaint was reported to civil authorities and considered by the chair of Archdiocesan Review Board and the archbishop's lead advisors on these matters.
An initial investigation found the complaint to be of sufficient substance to require restrictions on Fr. Schulte's service as a priest, i.e., not allowed to publicly celebrate the Mass or sacraments, and not allowed to present himself publicly as a priest.
Fr. Thomas Sutherland, a senior (retired) priest, will serve as temporary administrator of St. Sylvester Parish.
A Detroit Free Press article says the case was referred to the Oakland County Prosecutor in September (which is when the complaint was made, according to the Detroit News). Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit says, "We have not made a decision of guilt."
In other words, they are letting the investigation happen by civil authorities and an accusation is not the equivalent of being found guilty.
Prior to joining Assumption Grotto in Detroit in May of 2005, I spent my Sunday's floating between several area parishes. St. Sylvester was among those parishes and I knew Fr. Schulte through his celebration of the Mass and Confessions, the latter of which were offered regularly on Saturdays with decent attendance. He's been at St. Sylvesters since 1994 and I was there for his first Mass at the parish and went periodically there until 2005. My recollection of him was that of a gentle, charitable soul.
This really saddens me and I hope he is eventually cleared. That said, I would never hope for such a thing at the expense of truth, which is most important, especially if someone has been abused. I am very cautious to not go too far in either direction with my assumptions and interior judgments. It's really the best approach - to suspend judgment and pray that the process works, and works expeditiously for all concerned. None of us has access to specifics needed to make an informed judgment - for, or against, either person. So, we wait to see what the prosecutor finds.
Priests have been accused, and later found guilty of having committed unspeakable crimes against children - harming them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There are always people who can attest to an accused priest's great character, even in those who have been found guilty of multiple offenses. However, priests have also been falsely accused, with evidence-a-plenty of their innocence. Not all are returned to active ministry, or to parish ministry, even after being proven innocent (read more here, and here).
What is most important in a case like this is truth and justice. Please keep the accuser and Fr. Schulte in your prayers, as well as those involved with the investigation.
- Link to the statement at the Archdiocese of Detroit webpage on Fr. Gary Schulte, and additional info.
*Story updated at 7:45 am, October 31.
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