(newsobserver.com) RALEIGH — Despite a lawsuit filed this week by two Raleigh brothers alleging sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest, the number of cases involving the Diocese of Raleigh remains far below those at dioceses at the epicenter of scandal that has rocked the church.
In the latest suit, which seeks unspecified damages, the two Raleigh brothers accuse the Rev. Raymond Francisco Schulte, 57, of sexually abusing them beginning in 1984 when Schulte served as a priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese. The suit was filed against the Order of St. Benedict in Collegeville, Minn., the order to which Schulte belongs.
This year, allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against three priests who have served in the Diocese of Raleigh. In addition to Schulte, they are Kenneth Parker, a retired priest from Garner, and Edgar Sepulveda, who served two churches in Brunswick County.
Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul, Minn., attorney representing the brothers, said the Benedictine order knew that Schulte had molested children when it allowed him to go to Raleigh in 1983 to serve as vicar of Hispanic ministries for the diocese.
The lawsuit states that while Schulte served in Puerto Rico from 1977 to 1981, he sexually abused at least three students. He then recruited at least one of the boys to Collegeville, Minn., where the abuse continued.
“They had good reason to know before he went to North Carolina that he posed a risk of harm,” Anderson said.
Schulte, 57, served in Raleigh for three years, from 1983 to 1986. The diocese is not named in the suit filed in Ramsey County, Minn.
Anderson said he knows of seven men who allege Schulte molested them when they were boys: the Raleigh brothers; the three men from Puerto Rico; and two from Minnesota.
The Diocese of Raleigh, which spans 54 Eastern North Carolina counties from Chatham to Dare, is large but, until recently, among the smallest in membership. Beginning in the 1980s, Catholics began moving to the South, traditionally a bastion of Baptists and Methodists. Today the diocese has 217,000 registered members and at least as many unregistered members, mostly Hispanic.
At the height of the sexual abuse scandal, between 2002 and 2005, the diocese received allegations against 13 priests. Nationwide, more than 700 priests were removed in that period. More than 5,000 allegations of abuse have been filed against U.S. priests since 1950.
The Raleigh brothers, now ages 37 and 40, served as altar boys at Sacred Heart Cathedral in the 1980s. According to the suit, one of brothers alleges he was molested by Schulte from 1984 to 1986 in multiple locations in North Carolina, Mexico and Collegeville, Minn. The other brother was molested in 1986 primarily in a condominium owned by Monsignor Jeffrey Ingham.
Ingham, reached by phone late Wednesday, said “absolutely not” when asked if he knew what was going on in his condominium. Now a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Southern Pines, he declined to answer any other questions.
Anderson said the brothers assumed they were the only ones abused by Schulte until they found a website, behindthepinecurtain.com , that listed the priest alongside others from his order accused of sexual abuse.
As a result of a 1992 allegation the Order of St. Benedict received regarding Schulte, the priest was subject to restrictions by the order from then until June 2002, according to a statement on the order’s website. He began a three-year leave in 2003, traveling in Italy and Mexico.
From 2007 to 2009 he returned to North Carolina to care for his ailing parents. He did not serve as a priest during that time. Most recently, Schulte was in Rome giving tours of a monastery.
Raleigh diocese not part of [Schulte] suit