I must admit I’m a major true crime buff. I know that acknowledgement can come across as painting me “interesting”, “fun”, or “potential serial killer.” To understand the darkness from which Christ has redeemed us then we must be willing to peer into that very darkness. Evil does not just lurk in the shadows of the night, but sometimes walks our cathedrals with a collar and vestments. The clergy are not above being tainted by the evil one. Sometimes, to the extent of murder they are enticed and succumb.
I came across a book that intrigued me by the title alone. “Killer Priest” by Mark Gado is a twisted, but true, story of Father Hans Schmidt. The book takes you on a journey through love, lies, counterfeiting, mutilation, and murder. A walk through the crimes, trial, and execution of Father Schmidt will open your eyes to the truth that even the most depraved and vile individuals can worm their way into the priesthood. Satan is always attempting to destroy the Church from within its own walls. Fr. Schmidt is the first, and only, ordained Catholic priest to be tried, convicted, and sentenced for rape and murder. He is a suspected serial killer, although other murders were never able to be linked to him. He is the only Catholic priest to be executed in the United States.
The words “priest” and “murderer” do not seem to go together. That was the case, on the other hand, for Father Schmidt. He was ordained in Germany in 1904. Trouble arose with his actions and behavior almost immediately. His colleagued and seminary classmates brushed him off as being “different” and strange. In typical Catholic fashion, rather than receiving disciplinary action or taking steps to ensure he would not hurt others, the Church moved him. He eventually made his way to Kentucky, where he was assigned to St. John’s parish in Louisville. Once again, trouble seemed to follow him and, once again, he was transferred. It was in Louisville where his first victim is suspected of having been murdered, but that was one of the murders they could never pin on Schmidt. He was assigned to St. Boniface Church in New York City. It is in New York where the Church’s failure to act in any other disciplinary manner other than transferal is where a young woman lost her life at the hands of the man in the white collar.
Multiple times the Church had the opportunity to stop Schmidt. Rather than effectively deal with a problem priest, the Church just kept pawning the problem off on someone else. It kept shifting the players around on the board as opposed to removing them from the game. If they had effectively taken measures, perhaps the evil and horrendous acts committed by Schmidt would have been circumvented.
Her name was Anna Aumuller, and she was the housekeeper at St. Boniface’s rectory in New York City when the young German priest came through the door. Schmidt made multiple advances and gestures toward the young woman, who initially rejected him. She eventually succumbed to his advances and fell in love with the priest who said God told him to love her. Simultaneously, on the other hand, Schmidt was also having a homosexual love affair with a controversial dentist named Ernest Muret. The dentist was certainly much more of a criminal mastermind than he was dentist. He is the avenue through which Schmidt became involved in counterfeiting currency.
While having his homosexual relationship with Muret, Schmidt performed his own wedding ceremony with Anna and married her. They lived in secret as husband and wife while he was still having sex with Muret. Problems arose when Schmidt discovered Anna was pregnant. His fascination for blood took a diabolical turn upon hearing this news. The marriage they were able to mostly keep secret. How would he explain a child? The answer, according to Schmidt, came directly from God. He said God told him to kill her.
He went to their apartment late one night, cut her throat, drank her blood, raped her, and performed a makeshift Eucharistic offering with a cup as he drank her blood. He said her murder was a sacrifice for the Lord and he loved the taste of her blood. After lifting a cup of her blood up, as if he were performing Mass in their bathroom, and drinking it then he cut Anna’s body up into multiple pieces and dumped the parts in the Hudson River. Immediately following her murder, he rushed over to St. Joseph’s Church where he offered Mass and administered Holy Communion just like any other ordinary day. No one had any suspicions he had just committed a gruesome murder, cut a body into pieces and dumped it in the Hudson, and drank the victim’s blood.
Police investigators suspected Schmidt might have committed as many as four murders, but they were only able to prove he murdered Anna. Schmidt was the prime suspect in the murder of Helen Green. She was last seen with Schmidt before her disappearance. He was also last seen with another woman that he later claimed to be his wife prior to Anna. She disappeared as well. Schmidt is also presumed to have killed two children, 5-year-old August Van Dyke and 9-year-old Alma Kellner.
Christ is not defined by the failures and sins of its clergy and the Church is not impenetrable to the puppets of Satan. The story of Father Schmidt is a painful reminder that it is not just sexual assault and sexual abuse the Church has covered up in the past. If you think the sex abuse scandals are the worst the Church has ever faced, then you need to read “Killer Priest”. It’s an eye-opening true story that will cause you to pause and consider your view on the humanity and vulnerability of priests to Satan’s plans and remind you to pray for their fortitude and resolve. Pray for your priest. Pray for all God’s priests.