Catholic Priest

John Philip Schanz

Ordained: 1950
Diocese: Diocese of Erie

From the Report I of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Based on information provided by the Diocese of Erie, a victim wrote a letter to Bishop Donald Trautman that was postmarked April 11, 2002.  In the letter, the victim detailed an assault which occurred in 1969 or 1970 when he was going into seventh or eighth grade and was an altar boy at St. Andrew and The Villa. According to the victim, he met John Philip Schanz, who invited him to his apartment on the southwest corner of 6th and Sassafras Street. Schanz began to wrestle the boy and grab his body.  When the victim asked his older brother, who was a Gannon College student at the time, if he knew of Schanz, his brother began to laugh and remarked “you mean the one who likes little boys?

It should be noted that there is a gap in documentation in the file from when the initial letter was sent by the victim and May 2014.

In a letter dated November 17, 2015, Bishop Lawrence T. Persico stated that, based on the  information  he  was  provided,  Bishop  Trautman  had  offered  the  victim  professional counseling in 2002 but the victim had declined this offer. Additionally, in an e-mail from victim to Persico, the victim acknowledged that he had declined Trautman’s offer of help in 2002.

Within the Diocese file provided, there was also a Post-It note that stated that there was a message left for Monsignor Smith from Victim #1 on May 12, 2014. The message was attached to a piece of paper on which Smith noted that he called the victim on May 12, 2014 and May 14, 2014.

A handwritten note by Trautman revealed that on Sunday, May 18, 2014, he called the victim.  They two discussed the victim’s “situation.” Trautman wrote that he reviewed the actions which had been taken for the removal of Schanz, a teacher at Gannon University, and later stated that he himself had removed Schanz from the active ministry.  Trautman also noted that the victim was still bothered by the incident of abuse and that Trautman had assured him of “our help & guidance.” Trautman noted in these documents that the victim suffered from a troubled marriage, anxiety, nightmares, and guilt regarding the incident with Schanz.

In a letter written to victim from Persico and dated February 23, 2016, it was noted that enclosed with the letter was a check in the amount of $32,000 as a final reimbursement owed to him from the Diocese of Erie for his counseling. It was also stated that the check supplemented the $12,500 check which he had already received from the Diocese and concluded all financial reimbursement.

In a letter postmarked May 9, 2002 and addressed “Attn: Bishop Catholic Diocese,” a second victim wrote that in the early 1970’s he had attended a Gannon University basketball game and was approached by Schanz. Schanz asked he victim if he would like to go to all of the games, to which the victim replied that he would. According to the victim, after the games, they would go to Schanz’s apartment at the rectory on West 6th Street, where Schanz always wanted to drink and wrestle. The victim was 12 or 13 years of age at the time.

The victim went on to note that he was writing the letter from prison. He stated that he was incarcerated as a result of crimes that he had committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He attributed his substance abuse problem to the sexual abuse that he had endured at the hands of Schanz years prior. The victim sought acknowledgement from the church that they had received the letter and expressed a desire to know if Schanz was still alive and whether or not he was still victimizing individuals.

Trautman responded to the victim’s letter.  He stated that he wished to acknowledge the unfortunate incidents that occurred to him in the early 1970’s. Trautman informed the victim that Schanz was no longer celebrating the sacraments or mass publicly and that he was in frail health. Additionally, Trautman noted that Schanz was no longer representing the church in any public way and did not wear clerical garb.

Bishop Trautman went on to write that he was glad the victim  brought his concerns to the Bishop’s attention and that he deeply regretted the tragic circumstances of his life that may have been influenced by his contact with Schanz. The Bishop told the victim that he prayed that the Lord would bring him healing and to leave the past in the past and go on to find happiness and peace in his life.

The second victim wrote to Trautman again on October 30, 2002, seeking assistance from the Catholic Charities upon his release from prison. Ultimately, at the request of Trautman, the Director of Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services reached out to the victim and offered assistance upon his release.

The second victim’s allegations were reported to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

On January 2, 2007, Monsignor Robert Smith received an e-mail outlining an incident that occurred in 1974 when the writer was 17 years old and in a supervisory role at Camp Glinoda. The writer would later state that the incident had actually occurred at Camp Notre Dame. The writer recalled an instance when approximately 20 children jumped into the pool. Schanz jumped into the pool as well, but seemed to focus on one boy in particular. The lifeguard noticed Schanz hugging the boy, as well as picking the boy up out of the water and dunking him under water. The lifeguard told the writer to get the children out of the water. The unknown boy then told the writer that he wanted to show Schanz something in the cabin. A few minutes passed and the writer went looking for them. The boy and Schanz eventually emerged from the woods. The writer did not recall whether or not the pair were clothed, as he looked away. He asked the boy later in the day what had been going on. The boy described the incident as “weird.” The writer reported the incident to camp administrators.  He was advised that they would take care of the matter and that they should keep it to themselves.

The Diocese was able to identify a James O’Connor as being the Director of Camp Notre Dame in the 1970’s possibly in 1974 at the time of the allegation. However, O’Connor stated that he did not recall anyone coming forward in his five years as Director to report an incident of clergy sexual abuse.

On April 15, 2002, another victim sent an e-mail messge to Trautman about abuse that he had suffered at the hand of Schanz. He stated that in 1974, he was an altar boy at Holy Cross Church. Shortly thereafter, Schanz began taking him to his cottage on Lake Erie to go boating and provided him with alcohol nearly every weekend. The victim stated that he would fall asleep and wake up to Schanz kissing him on the lips or touching his genitals. Additionally, Schanz would take off the victim’s clothing while he believed the victim was sleeping and photograph him nude, specifically his genitals. Schanz would also masturbate in front of the victim after he had removed his clothing and believed him to be asleep. The victim stated that Schanz would kiss him a lot, at times attempting to French kiss him, but that he would not allow that to happen. According to the victim, Schanz would buy him gifts and clothes and take him to dinner, the movies and even on trips to Florida in the winter months. While he knew what had happened to him was wrong, he never told anyone.

The victim reported that when he was 20 years old, he and his now ex-wife, went to Father Orbaniek to be married. Prior to their marriage, Orbaniek told the victim’s now ex-wife about what had happened between the victim and Schanz. Orbaniek also told her about incidents between Schanz and other boys.  As a result of Orbaniek’s statements, the victim and his wife ended up divorcing after 18 years of marriage. Finally, the victim stated that he had letters he had written to Schanz about the abuse.

In the e-mail that the victim sent to Trautman, he stated that an attorney he had been in contact with wanted to file suit against the Diocese, the Vatican, Schanz and Orbaniek.

In the documents provided pursuant to subpoena, it was noted that Schanz’s attorney reached out to the victim and requested that all correspondence go through him. On the copy of the correspondence that the attorney sent to the victim, there was a hand written note by Trautman which stated, “this case was settled directly by Father Schanz & [his attorney] for $50,000” –DWT June 21, 2002.

Based on the information provided by the Diocese of Erie, namely two sheets of notes handwritten by Bishop Donald Trautman, in an unknown year an unidentified additional victim came forward with allegations that Schanz had sexually abused him. The abuse took place in 1978 or 1979 when Victim #5 was sixteen or seventeen years old. Schanz befriended Victim #5 and invited him to his home on West 6th Street in Erie. Victim #5 went on to state that Schanz had given him alcohol, which caused him to be “tipsy” and that Schanz French kissed him while attempting to pull his pants down. Additionally, Victim #5 stated that the worst incident had occurred at Schanz’s cabin in Fairview, PA.

The notes go on to say that the Victim #5 had visited Schanz 3 or 4 months prior to the handwritten notes. Additionally, the notes state that Father Schanz had given Victim #5 an ‘F’ in a course that he taught. Another written note outlined “pay for counseling” with the calculations of $85.00 per session, one session per week for fifty-two weeks. There is also a note about schooling at the cost of $17,000, but no indication as to where this schooling may have been. It should be noted that these handwritten notes, which do not identify the Victim #5, were found in the file of Victim #6.

The first page of this file received from the Diocese of Erie is a single sheet of paper with the word “Redacted” printed on it. In the Diocese of Erie File labeled Victim #6-SCHANZ, there are handwritten notes by Bishop Donald Trautman that outline the abuse which was suffered by Victim #6 at the hand of Schanz. At the time of the abuse, Schanz was working at the Cathedral at Gannon University (G.U.). Victim #6’s abuse began when he was 15 years old and took place between the years 1980 and 1983. The file contains a note that states “told Monsignor Slatin”. The notes read that Victim #6 had no friends and was from a dysfunctional family. His father was an abusive alcoholic. Schanz had invited Victim #6 to his West 6th Street residence and gave him alcohol on many occasions. Bishop Trautman notes that the worst incidents of abuse occurred at Schanz’s cabin in Fairview, Pennsylvania where Schanz would French kiss the Victim, massage him while clothed and unclothed, and rub oil on his body. It was noted that Victim #6 massaged Schanz as well. As a result of the abuse that Victim #6 endured, he suffered from severe depression and considered himself to be a womanizer. His wife deserted him and he was actively receiving counseling. Perhaps the most telling sentence in Bishop Trautman’s handwritten notes is the statement “another person abused by Father Schanz.

In what appears to be a list of compensation that Victim #6 was to receive, Bishop Trautman noted “small settlement, education, therapy costs.” Additionally, Bishop Trautman made a list that appears to outline his plan for dealing with Schanz stating “1. Retire from G.U. Change location/residence 3. WE-what is being done 4. Counseling- St. Zavier or St. Luke’s

Bishop Trautman made notes from information which he appears to have obtained from Schanz as a result of Victim #6 coming forward. It notes “72” which is the age that Father Schanz would have been in 1996 when Victim #6 came forward. “No sex attraction, 3 in area, craving for friendship no sex involvement would call from Cleveland. Did give rubdown to other fellow.” The notes continue stating “Admits no guilt but some settlement (Aug. 5) give up Holy Cross- no contact w. youth stay at (illegible) house.

The remainder of the file contains documentation related to Schanz’s retirement from Gannon University, including a letter from Monsignor David A. Rubino, President of Gannon University dated August 19, 1996, which is the same date that Victim #6 met with Bishop Trautman. The letter stated that Schanz was paid at his normal salary until his insurance was transferred to the Diocese of Erie. Additionally, Monsignor Rubino allowed Schanz to take his mattress with him, as a token of the University’s appreciation for his service.

A letter written to Bishop Trautman by Victim #6’s attorney, John H. Moore, Esq. of Erie, stated that he discussed the “ramifications of trying to pursue a legal claim for something that occurred so long ago as well as the additional trauma that would be an inevitable result of the litigation.”  Victim #6 sought compensation from the Diocese of Erie for his counseling sessions with Psychologist Jacqueline Phillips, as well as payment for tuition, books, room and board for Cuyahoga Community College where Victim #6 was pursuing his Associates Degree. Copies of the course catalog were included in the file to show proof of enrollment costs. Ultimately, on September 18, 1996, Victim #6 signed a General Release stating that he received $8,800 in “full satisfaction of payment for or on account of any and all liability of any kind whatsoever including vicarious liability for alleged indecent assaults and/or acts perpetrated by Reverend John P. Schanz. This release forever discharged Reverend John. P Schanz, Gannon College, now known as Gannon University, Bishop Michael J. Murphy, Bishop Donald W. Trautman and the Diocese of Erie.” Additionally, there is a bill from Daniel J. Brabender, Jr., Esquire for $425.00 for his services to the Diocese of Erie for the matter of Victim #6/Father Schanz.

A supplemental document written by Monsignor Robert J. Smith, Vicar General, on April 18, 2002,  which was not in the Diocese file for Schanz and is titled “Summary Report #4”, outlines the sexual abuse allegation by  a thirty-two-year-old male believed to be Victim #6 and the steps taken by the Diocese of Erie to settle the matter. Additionally, though there are no victim names listed in this document, the document appears to outline the reporting of sexual abuse by victims #1 and #4 at the hand of Schanz.

Based on the documents received from the Diocese of Erie, on March 1, 2005, Barbara Edwards, a psychologist local to the Erie area, called the Diocese to alert them that one of her clients, Victim #7, had alleged that he was abused by Schanz.

In a letter written to Monsignor Smith dated February 28, 2005, Victim #7 described how his life since a young age had been filled with drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuous sexual activity, emotional issues, and physical health problems. Victim #7 was an altar boy who only felt at home and purposeful in the church. According to this victim, Schanz enjoyed engaging in recreational activities with the altar boys. Schanz would intimidate Victim #7 and hold him underwater repeatedly, scaring him terribly. Schanz then took Victim #7 to a bath house, where he “did things he should not have done.” Victim #7 does not recall how many times this happened. According to Victim #7, his life is now clean and sober. He is happily married with three children and is a successful licensed professional counselor, yet he misses the closeness of the parish community.

On Diocese of Erie letterhead, Bishop Donald Trautman recalled the following interaction with himself, Monsignor Smith and Barbara Edwards. According to Bishop Trautman, Victim #7 was in the sixth grade at St. Andrew’s in Erie, PA at the time of the abuse suffered at the hands of Schanz. According to Bishop Trautman, Schanz helped at St. Andrews in the summer. Bishop Trautman wrote that Schanz took Victim #7 and a few other boys to the beach to go swimming, where Schanz became aggressive with Victim #7.  Bishop Trautman went on to write that Schanz took Victim #7 to a bath house or sauna, where he rubbed Victim #7 down with oak leaves. Victim #7 stated “he spent too much time on my genital and rectum.” This bothered Victim #7 greatly and he told his father. His father told him to stay away from Schanz. Bishop Trautman wrote that the Victim did not want Schanz “hurt” or disciplined.” Additionally, Bishop Trautman offered to pay for counseling, Victim #7 told him that he did not think it was necessary because he had insurance.

Bishop Trautman went on to write that Victim #7 wanted to return to the Church, so Monsignor Smith took his confession and they discussed reentry to Mass. Bishop Trautman wrote that he called Schanz, who admitted to taking boys to the beach, but that Schanz adamantly denied ever going to a sauna or bath house. Bishop Trautman wrote that he informed Edwards of Schanz’s statements.

Additional information regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Dioceses of Pennsylvania and the systemic cover up by senior church officials is compiled in the Pennsylvania Diocese Victim’s Report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General following a two-year grand jury investigation.  A complete copy of the Report is available on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.