National news media frequently turning to law school’s Patrick Schiltz for perspective on clergy misconduct issues

When the phone rings in the office of Patrick Schiltz, interim dean and professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, more often than not the caller is a local, national or even international reporter seeking help with the latest development in the ongoing clergy sexual misconduct story.

Earlier in his legal career, Schiltz was a partner at the Minneapolis law firm of Faegre & Benson and represented more than a dozen major denominations in connection with more than 500 clergy sexual misconduct cases in almost all 50 states.

He is widely recognized as one of the leading authorities in the United States on clergy sexual misconduct.

Over the past two months or so, Schiltz has been handling an average of two or three media interviews per day; some days, he does as many as six or seven. While a handful are with local reporters, the majority are with national and international news organizations.

He has been interviewed a number of times by CNN and MSNBC, as well as by ABC, NBC, PBS, CNN Headline News and CNBC. He has been on National Public Radio several times, as well as ABC Radio Network, the widely syndicated Michael Reagan program, and numerous local programs, including an hour-long program on Minnesota Public Radio.

Magazines that have interviewed Schiltz include U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, Fortune and National Review.

In addition to several interviews with the Associated Press, the list of newspaper interviews includes USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Newsday, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and other regional papers throughout the country.

He has discussed the clergy misconduct story, as well as the university’s new law school, with legal publications such as National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Legal Times and Minnesota Lawyer.

Many of the interviews Schiltz handles over the phone; otherwise, reporters come to the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus. Sometimes he uses a television studio about a block from campus. The commercial studio is available to various networks, and it’s handy for Schiltz because it’s only five minutes from his law school office in Terrence Murphy Hall. He does his National Public Radio interviews at the downtown St. Paul studios of Minnesota Public Radio.

Why do they call Schiltz? There are many reasons, but an important one is that he has broad experience that dates back to the 1980s, but is not directly involved with the current cases. Reporters find that he is candid and forthright resource who can provide a straightforward perspective to complex legal issues.

"I think reporters know that I don’t have an ax to grind and that I try to tell the truth as I see it," Schiltz said. "I also try to provide answers that are brief but accurate — and that nonlawyers can understand."

His role as interim dean and professor at a Catholic law school also is helpful. As a Catholic, a lawyer, and a professor, he is in a position to help bridge the gap between the church and the legal system.

For an example of how Schiltz helps bring perspective to this controversy, listen to his noon hour interview on April 24 with Minnesota Public Radio.

Schiltz finds that the questions from reporters are more sophisticated now than they were when clergy-abuse cases were in the news a decade ago. "They are more detailed now," he said, "and cover topics like the financial structure of the church, the role of psychiatrists in these cases back in the 1980s, and taking depositions from bishops. These aren’t the kind of questions reporters were asking five or 10 years ago."

Although pressed for time in his role as interim dean of the law school, Schiltz finds time in his schedule for interviews because he feels an obligation to help reporters tell the story accurately, and because his background allows him to present a balanced perspective in a way that few other legal experts can.

He expects the clergy-abuse story will continue to be in the news at least through June, and that it will continue to surface in months and years ahead whenever new developments surface.

Other St. Thomas faculty members also have helped reporters in connection with the clergy-abuse story. Dr. Don Briel, director of the Center for Catholic Studies, has been interviewed a number of times. Also interviewed have been the Rev. Dennis Dease, president; the Rev. John Malone, Development; the Rev. Reginald Whitt, School of Law; Dr. Paul Wojda, Theology Department; and Dr. Ken Goodpaster, College of Business.

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