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Buffalo priest who advised U.S. presidents about youth was alleged child molester

Buffalo priest who advised U.S. presidents about youth was alleged child molester

According to The Buffalo News, Monsignor Joseph E. Schieder advised Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy on youth issues.

In the 1950s and ’60s, he was arguably Buffalo’s most renowned Catholic priest, writing books on youth and their concerns and regularly traveling the country and abroad to speak at youth conferences. The president of Italy even awarded Schieder a “Star of Solidarity,” one of that nation’s highest honors for noncitizens.

But behind his accomplishments, Schieder hid a dark secret.

The secret wasn’t revealed until 2018 – more than two decades after Schieder’s death at age 87 – when his name was included on a Buffalo Diocese list of priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

The Buffalo News has learned at least five men have complained to the diocese that Schieder abused them when they were minors, and the alleged abuses spanned several decades.

Another complainant accused Schieder in a Fort Lauderdale police report of sexually abusing him, starting in 1987. The same man who went to Fort Lauderdale police filed a pro se lawsuit in 1993 against Schieder in federal court in Florida. Police didn’t charge Schieder, and the federal court case was dismissed. When the man notified the Buffalo Diocese in 2002, then-Bishop Henry J. Mansell wrote a letter back stating that the diocese had received no other complaints about Schieder.

Most of the 80 men on the diocese’s list are rank-and-file priests who were not well known outside of the parishes where they served. A few of them held positions of power and authority beyond the parish level. With an international reputation, Schieder was perhaps the most influential and respected of any of them.

Schieder founded the National Catholic Camping Association and was director of the youth department for the National Catholic Welfare Conference in Washington, D.C. He was national director of the Catholic Youth Organization, or CYO, for 13 years during the organization’s heyday. One of his books, “Spiritual Lifts for Youth,” published in 1956, had more than two million copies in print around the world.

“It was a total shock to see his name on that list,” said Monsignor Francis Weldgen, a retired pastor.

Schieder frequently was quoted in the media railing against the evils of pornography or commenting on parenting, the roots of juvenile delinquency and other pressing social or moral issues.

His alleged crimes against children – kept hidden for so long – now overshadow his broad résumé.

“When confronting men of power, victims of sexual abuse face extremely daunting challenges,” said nationally recognized sex abuse attorney Jeff Herman. “In my experience as a lawyer, the best way to prevent future instances of sexual abuse is to expose predators – no matter who they are. Transparency empowers other victims who were too afraid to speak out,” said Jeff.

Following the huge victory for survivors of sexual abuse in the state of New York, many may be wondering what are next steps?

Take action. You are no longer alone. The time has finally come for those who have suffered in silence to seek justice and begin healing. 

Thanks to the recent passage of the New York Child Victims Act, a special one-year window of opportunity to bring claims opens up on August 14, 2019. Contact us today at Herman Law to learn about your options.

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