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Sex Offender Banned from Churches in 2 Pennsylvania Dioceses

By Kirk Petersen
bernard schade sex offender
Registered sex offender and former Episcopal Church music director Bernard Schade. (Photo: Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry)

After being released from a 10-year prison term, an 85-year-old music director has been told in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome in any church in the Diocese of Bethlehem of The Episcopal Church.

On June 10, Bishop of Bethlehem Kevin Nichols sent a pastoral directive to all of the more than 50 congregations in the diocese, instructing them to notify Bernard Kenneth Schade,  in writing that “he is not permitted, licensed, or privileged to be upon your parish’s church property or to enter or remain in any of the parish buildings or structures.” Schade is also known by the name Ken Werner.

On June 15, Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez sent a similar pastoral directive to the more than 130 churches in the Philadelphia-based Diocese of Pennsylvania, acknowledging Nichols’s action and noting that Schade had performed at churches in the neighboring diocese.

Schade, the founder of a boys choir that toured internationally for years, pleaded guilty in 2014 to sexual assault of a teenage boy and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, and served the entire stint before being released in March. Efforts by The Living Church (TLC) to contact Schade were unsuccessful.

Since his release, Nichols wrote that on two occasions Schade showed up for worship services at different churches in the diocese. At the Cathedral of the Nativity in Bethlehem he was recognized and told to leave, while at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre he arrived late and attended the service.

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“I certainly hope that as Christians we always seek reconciliation and are prepared to forgive another’s transgressions, however Mr. Schade has, in a direct communication to me, made absolutely clear that he lacks insight into the severity of his crimes, blames the victim, and demonstrates a complete lack of contrition,” Nichols wrote.

The bishop told TLC that Schade had sent him a letter complaining about how he was treated at the cathedral. “There’s a stated standard process for individuals like Mr. Schade, you know, to come to a rector or a priest in charge or directly to the bishop, to put parameters around their return to a community. And that was not present.”

kevin nichols
Bishop Kevin Nichols (Courtesy image)

This led him to take what he called unprecedented steps to protect the youth of the diocese.

Schade founded the now-defunct Singing Boys of Pennsylvania, and directed it from 1970 until his arrest. According to contemporary news coverage, “Schade admitted to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 1996. The teen was a member of the choir and had attended a dance concert with the instructor. When the show was over Schade told the boy he was too tired to take him home and said he’d have to sleep at Schade’s Monroe County home. Schade made the teen undress and sexually assaulted him in his bed.”

While awaiting trial, Schade called a neighbor and asked her to remove two suitcases from his home. The phone call from prison was monitored, and when police retrieved the suitcases, they found more than 1,100 images of child pornography.

Schade was declared a sexually violent predator, and was ordered to be registered as such for the rest of his life. He filed unsuccessful appeals throughout his incarceration.

This article originally appeared at The Living Church and has been reprinted with permission.

Kirk Petersen serves as associate editor of The Living Church, a non-profit publication that reports on the Anglican Communion. 



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2 Responses

  1. So wait 50 congregations (and another 130 in another diocese) were instructed to give him written notice? I’m just picturing him picking up the mail, and every day for weeks it’s just stack after stack of notices from like 180 different churches. This isn’t a humorous situation but really, there’s a little humor there.

  2. There is a little humor here, I suppose, if you disregard the reason for the notification.

    This man is a sexually violent predator who has shown no understanding of the severity or wrongness of his crimes, or any remorse for his actions. In my state, sex offenders are judged to be at 3 Levels when they are released-1 being the least liable to reoffend and 3 being Sexually Violent Predators who are very apt to re-offend, and to be violent in their attempts.

    This man is definitely in the Level 3 category & is a danger. I am not sure how helpful the notifications will be in deterring him from attending but this bishop is certainly being proactive in making sure the congregations are aware of him.

    It’s possible that it might be even more helpful for pastors or church leaders to do some sort of announcement so that all church attendees are aware of how this guy is and what he looks like, but kudos to this bishop for his sincere attempts to protect the congregations in his area.

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