German Bishop Removes Priest who Served in Washington

April 20, 2010

The German Bishops’ Conference has informed the Archdiocese of Washington that it received allegations of misconduct that date to the 1980s-early 1990s involving Reverend Michael Schapfel, who served as the chaplain of the 75-family German Pastoral Mission of Washington, DC from 2005 until earlier this month.

The allegations involved young women in Germany. No allegations involving his work in the United States have been received by the Diocese of Mainz or the Archdiocese of Washington.

The German Bishops’ Conference noted that the Diocese of Mainz, upon learning of the allegations on March 30, informed the civil authorities, recalled Fr. Schapfel to Germany and removed him from all ministry. The Archdiocese of Washington was informed of these actions on April 20. The German Bishops’ Conference has written to the people of the pastoral mission, and will send a representative to meet with them in the near future. The Archdiocese of Washington also is offering pastoral care to the community.

Michael Schapfel was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Mainz in 1984. He held a number of positions in Germany, including an assignment with the Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Diocesan Priests. It was a report from the Schoenstatts to the Diocese of Mainz that led to his removal from ministry. According to a press release of the German Bishops’ Conference, the Schoenstatts had some information as early as 2004 that suggested a past inappropriate relationship, but the information was not shared.

Consistent with the Child Protection Policy of the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr. Schapfel had a letter of suitability from his home diocese, affirming that he had no known criminal background nor anything that would “render him unsuitable to work with children”; he attended mandatory child protection training in the Archdiocese of Washington; and he signed an affidavit that he read and agreed to follow the Child Protection Policy of the Archdiocese of Washington.

The Archdiocese of Washington takes the protection of children very seriously, and has had a written Child Protection Policy for nearly 25 years (online at This policy mandates reporting to civil authorities; FBI criminal background checks and training for all clergy, employees and volunteers who have substantial contact with children; safe environment training for children; and healing for those harmed. The Archdiocese also has a Child Protection Advisory Board of primarily lay experts to advise on all matters involving the protection of children.

Anyone with any knowledge of inappropriate conduct by a member of the clergy or an employee or volunteer is asked to contact local authorities and the archdiocesan director of child protection services, Marcia Zvara, at 301-853-5328.

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