Several survivors of sexual abuse have filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, alleging that the organization covered up child sexual abuse by various clergy members. Former Roman Catholic High School priest and teacher Father John Schmeer has been named in one of those lawsuits.
The first documented complaint against Schmeer was documented by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in March of 2002. In that complaint, a man reported that Schmeer had sexually abused him at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia around 1967 or 1968, when the man was 14 years old. The victim also said that multiple incidents of abuse involved Father Ernest Durante.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia confronted Schmeer about these allegations, which he denied. He did agree to participate in a psychological evaluation at Villa St. John Vianney, which is a treatment center for predatory priests in Downington, PA. In 2003, the Archdiocese ruled that the allegation was not credible, even though the victim had identified 15 other boys that he believed or knew for certain were victims of Schmeer. Schmeer returned to the ministry after this ruling.
Two more men came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Schmeer in 2004. The first victim said that Schmeer abused him in the summer of 1986, when he was 15 years old. The second alleged that he was abused as a Roman Catholic High School student in 1968.
Schmeer was removed from the ministry after this second set of allegations was reported. He took a personal leave of absence pending the outcome of an investigation by the review board, which determined that the allegations were credible. Following this determination, Schmeer was permanently restricted from the ministry and later accepted a revocation of his faculties, along with a life of prayer and penance instead of a Vatican defrocking.
Today, Schmeer is 83 years old and remains a priest with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. His current residence is believed to be Villa St. Joseph, where he may be living with other alleged pedophile priests in “supervised lives of prayer and penance.”
Father John Schmeer was assigned to several different churches and schools in Pennsylvania over the course of his 40-year career in the ministry:
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former sex crimes prosecutor who has transitioned to civil law, representing victims of abuse in lawsuits. His law firm, Laffey Bucci & Kent, is representing one of Father John Schmeer’s victims. Here is Brian with some information on the legal options available to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy members:
Sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy members has been an epidemic for decades. Many survivors of such abuse have hesitated to come forward, as it is extremely common for survivors to keep their abuse a secret well into adulthood. But some of these survivors have begun speaking out about the abuse they suffered as children and have started taking legal action against Catholic archdioceses for failing to protect children under their watch from predatory priests.
Catholic churches can be held liable for child sex abuse when their negligence allowed the abuse to happen. For example, an archdiocese might be considered negligent if they ignored complaints of sexual abuse involving a priest and allowed that priest to continue serving in the ministry, opening the door for additional victims to be abused.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest or another clergy member in a religious organization, you can learn more about your legal rights by speaking with an experienced church sex abuse attorney.