Amy Peterson, director of the Office of Pastoral Care & Conciliation for the Province of St. Joseph, told your Catholic Herald by telephone Monday that Fr. Gottschalk retired for a number of reasons, including his age, health and medical needs. She also said that while the Milwaukee County District Attorney office’s investigation into an allegation made against Fr. Gottschalk found no criminal behavior, it prompted the order to look at his situation.
“(The allegation) brought to light a conversation about Fr. Matthew and his deteriorating health, his age, he just lost his driver’s license – there were just a number of things,” Peterson said. “So the reason he’s not removed from minstry and he’s been retired is because he didn’t, as far as we know, we have no information about him committing a criminal act against a minor.”
Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern told your Catholic Herald Tuesday that three allegations against Fr. Gottschalk came to their attention earlier this year as a result of the bankruptcy proceedings involving the Milwaukee Archdiocese: the first incident allegedly occurred in 1970, the second allegedly occurred between 1974 and 1976, and the third incident allegedly occurred in 1993.
“All I can tell you is that the first two incidents simply did not constitute a crime, and the third incident alleged criminal misconduct, but is barred by the statute of limitations, so the decision with regard to that incident is not based on merits, but based on the fact that the statute of limitations is expired,” Lovern said.
Peterson said they would have liked to keep Fr. Gottschalk in Wisconsin, but that there wasn’t room in the order’s Appleton home.
“St. Bonaventure’s in Detroit was another place where he could be supported and cared for by other friars,” she said. “In other words, get (rides) to doctors’ appointments and have the kind of attention and care he’s going to need as he ages.”
Fr. Gottschalk, who celebrated 65 years as a priest last year, served in the Milwaukee Archdiocese at St. Benedict the Moor, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth parishes. After Fr. Gottschalk was injured during the 1967 race riots, when he was pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, he and his associate pastor, Capuchin Fr. Wilbert Lanser, conceived the idea of a community service center as a parish outreach to empower the African-American community, according to the website.