Fr. John P. Schanz – Diocese of Erie

| Jan 10, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father John Schanz

Diocese of Erie

Ordained: 1950

Retired: 1996

Withdrawn from ministry: 2002

Death: 2010

Assigned as follows:

  • 6/05/1950 – 09/01/1950: St. Elizabeth, Smethport, PA)
  • 9/01/1950 – 10/01/1996: Gannon University, Erie, PA
  • 9/01/1950 – 10/01/1996: Holy Cross, Fairview, PA
  • 6/13/1960 – 10/01/1996: Regional Director of the College Branch of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (Gannon College, Mercyhurst College & Villa Maria College)
  • 4/06/1962: Examiner of Junior Clergy of the Diocese of Erie
  • 3/08/1967: Advocate of the Tribunal of the Diocese of Erie
  • 5/14/1969: Advocate of the Tribunal of the Diocese of Erie
  • 10/01/1996 – 4/17/2002: Retired
  • 4/17/2002: Withdraws from Priestly Ministry and removed of any faculties

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father John Schanz:

According to media reports, in 2018, Father John Schanz’s name was included on the Diocese of Erie list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse. He was also named publicly as accused in the 2018 PA Grand Jury report. The report revealed a letter written by a victim addressed to Bishop Donald Trautman (1990-2012) detailing how Father Schanz sexually abused him in 1969 or 1970 when he was going into seventh or eighth grade and an altar boy at St. Andrew and The Villa.

According to the victim, he met John Schanz, who invited him to his apartment and 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?”

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.

A Second Victim of Father Schanz

In a letter from 2002, a second victim wrote that in the early 1970’s he had attended a Gannon University basketball game and was approached by John Schanz who asked the 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, 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 acknowledgment 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 1970s. 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 second victim’s allegations were reported to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

The Third Allegation of Abuse

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. John 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.

A Fourth Victim Describes Similar Abuse from Father Schanz

In April 2002, another victim sent an e-mail message to Trautman about abuse that he had suffered at the hand of John 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.

A Fifth Victim is Identified

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 John Schanz had sexually abused him.

The abuse took place in 1978 or 1979 when the fifth victim was 16 or 17 years old. Schanz befriended the victim and invited him to his home. The victim 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, the victim stated that the worst incident had occurred at Schanz’ s cabin in Fairview, Pennsylvania.

The notes go on to say that the victim had visited Schanz 3 or 4 months prior to the
handwritten notes. Additionally, the notes state that Father Schanz had given the fifth victim an “F” in a course that he taught.

It should be noted that these handwritten notes, which do not identify the fifth victim, were
found in the file of the sixth victim.

The Sixth Victim’s Abuse Began When He was 15

At the time of the sixth victim’s abuse, Schanz was working at the Cathedral at Gannon University (G.U.). The abuse began when the victim 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 had no friends and was from a dysfunctional family.

Schanz invited the victim to his residence and gave him alcohol on many occasions. Bishop Trautman noted 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 the victim massaged Schanz as well. As a result of the abuse he endured, the victim 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.”

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 the sixth victom met with Bishop

A Local Psychologist Discovers a Seventh Victim

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, a seventh victim, had alleged that he was abused by Schanz.

In a letter written to Monsignor Smith, the seventh victim 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. He 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 the victim and hold him underwater repeatedly, scaring him terribly. Schanz then took the victim to a bathhouse, where he “did things he should not have done.” The victim does not recall how many times this happened.

On Diocese of Erie letterhead, Bishop Donald Trautman recalled the following interaction with himself, Monsignor Smith and Barbara Edwards. According to Bishop Trautman, the victim was in the sixth grade at St. Andrew’s in Erie, Pennsylvania 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 the victim and a few other boys to the beach to go swimming, where Schanz became aggressive with the victim.

Bishop Trautman went on to write that Schanz took the victim to a bathhouse or sauna, where he rubbed the victim down with oak leaves. He stated, “he spent too much time on my genitals and rectum.”

This bothered the victim greatly and he told his father. His father told him to stay away from Schanz.

Bishop Trautman went on to write that the victim 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 bathhouse. Bishop Trautman wrote that he informed Edwards of Schanz’ s statements.

John Schanz was never criminally charged for any of the seven reported sexual abuse cases before his death in 2010. He is buried at Trinity Cemetery in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Erie may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so please do not delay in reaching out to us.

Contact us at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today.