It grieves me to no end to report on the happenings at St. Gertrude the Great Roman Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the grievous problems there as a result of the mismanagement of the school by Mr. Mark Lotarski and other members of his family. The fact that Bishop Dolan and Fr. Cekada have patently ignored the please of parents and other concerned parishioners shows me that, sometimes, a perceived heaven on earth can be turned into a hell only because those in power continue to defend the mindless and indefensible workings of one man.
Before I continue with the substance of my article, I would like to say that I do not have a dog in this fight. I am not a sedevacantist and haven’t attended a sede chapel in more than a year. However, I am concerned for the well being of the children and their souls. Therefore, I would like to share with you some excerpts from a list of grievances that were posted on this site several days ago and which were confirmed by a teacher who was recently fired from St. Gertrude the Great School.
10. The Principal repeatedly referred to one seventh grade boy as a liar, on one occasion reporting him to Fr. Cekada for lying in a particular instance. In fact, the boy had not lied, and the Principal had unquestioningly believed the word of his own son before this more truthful student.
11. The Principal screamed at a seventh grader and publicly humiliated him for allegedly not cleaning a thurible after Benediction. The boy’s father checked with the head MC, and was told the thurible was cleaned perfectly. The Principal, however, continued his dramatic and uncontrolled tantrum. The continuous abuse of this boy and his siblings eventually provided the family with no alternative but to withdraw their children from the school.
12. The Principal forcibly stopped a teacher from taking a sick first grade student out of church on the first day of school this year. He stepped in the way of the teacher and argued with her, forcing her to return to her pew, and humiliating her by publicly overriding her authority. The sick child was made to remain next to the Principal for the remainder of the Mass.
13. At the encouragement of Bishop Dolan, a first grader who had expressed interest in a vocation to the priesthood, was permitted regularly to come to the sacristy before the school Mass to help the priest vest for Mass. When his teacher left him in the sacristy as usual one day last October, the Principal waited for the teacher to leave, then screamed at the child to leave the sacristy and go back to his pew. Unaware of the situation, the newly ordained priest assigned to St. Gertrude’s brought him back to the sacristy, whereupon the Principal lost his temper, overriding the new priest, and screaming at the little boy to return to his pew as he had been told. The little boy was of course reduced to tears, and as a result, has shown no further interest in what had appeared to be the seed of a vocation.
14. The Principal shouted loudly at a first grade girl who was on her way to Confession. He told her she didn’t need to go to Confession, as she had recently gone, and forced her to return to her classroom.
15. The Principal once administered corporal punishment to a seventh grade boy in the presence of witnesses, during which punishment he actually broke a paddle over the boy’s back. While administering the punishment, he was seen to be in a rage, sweating profusely, trembling, and red in the face.
16. Meanwhile, the Principal makes no attempt to curb his own children’s lack of discipline. See examples 17-27 below.
17. Profanities, obscenities, foul language, talk of a sexually explicit nature, obscene hand gestures have all been practiced regularly by the sons of the Principal in front of other students, not only in high school, but even in front of the grade schoolers. One former student who had been in public school, stated that she had never met any boys as degraded and perverse as the sons of the Principal of St. Gertrude the Great School.
18. When one family attempted to have their son stay at the Lotarski house in order to receive an education at SGG, the boy was so upset at the mistreatment given him by the Lotarski parents and the constant and open use of the F word by the Lotarski children in the home that the parents had to pull him from the school altogether.
19. Smoking on school grounds by one of the Principal’s sons is permitted and even encouraged by the Principal and Fr. Cekada.
20. One of the Principal’s sons has boasted about smoking weed to a parishioner, and having a stash of marijuana in his basement. He has boasted to kindergarteners about being “high”.
21. The Principal’s sons show their contempt for the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and for the Sacred Liturgy by constantly chewing gum in the church, even in the sanctuary and while serving Mass.
22. Students have watched inappropriate videos (including of animal torture) in the Principal’s office on his computer. One of the sons of the Principal e-mailed a link to a pornographic video to one of the parishioners. This video is so bad that we cannot describe the contents here.
23. One of the Principal’s sons has continually bullied other students in the school. Physical beatings have been witnessed, and there has been a general underlying fear of the Lotarski boys among the younger students. When the school had an African student, one of the sons of the Principal regularly addressed him and referred to him by the N- word.
24. One of the Principal’s sons has attempted several times to intimidate even adults in school and in church, using sudden menacing actions designed to make the adult think he or she was in physical danger.
25. One of the Principal’s sons has used profanities including the F word even against members of the faculty and clergy. This has been done in front of other students, on one occasion in front of first graders.
26. On one occasion, aggressive confrontation by one of the Principal’s sons against a teacher was actually rewarded by the Principal, Bishop Dolan and Fr. Cekada by firing the teacher. Lies were then deliberately spread by Fr. Cekada, the school chaplain, to make it appear as though the teacher had provoked the student.
27. Even in the home, the Principal has regularly mistreated his own children. This summer he beat his 23-year-old daughter black and blue with a fly swatter, simply for dating a boy from Immaculate Conception Church (a local sedevacantist church run by Rev. William Jenkins and Rev. Joseph Greenwell of the SSPV). He has beaten one of his sons so much that the boy finally threatened to call the police and social services on his father if he ever touched him again. Since then, the boy has been pretty much left to his own devices, and receives little if any discipline in the home.
28. The resulting lack of discipline in the Lotarski home since about last Easter has left the sons of the Principal free to do whatever they want. It has become common knowledge among the student population that the boys go out in the middle of the night to do drugs and commit acts of fornication.
29. Among the perks that the church provided to the Principal at the parishioners’ expense was membership of the local YMCA, which has a gym and swimming pool. On several occasions, the school chaplain Fr. Cekada invited the teenage sons of the Principal to go swimming with him. When they went with him, according to the account of the boys themselves, they were made to feel very uncomfortable when Fr. Cekada would remain with them while they changed, and even more so when he stripped himself naked, exposing himself in front of them.
If you are like me, then this litany of abuses is very difficult to read. The school at St. Gertrude the Great is clearly not an environment at which young people can learn anything. Let alone the basics of their Faith if it is constantly being undermined by a group of senseless bullies and their bully father. The fact that the clergy, except for Fr. Markus Ramolla, has done absolutely nothing to quell this situation clearly indicates to me how far people can sink when they are given the reins of power.
I am sure that some of these children will bear deep scars from the experiences that they have had at this school. Speaking for myself, my one year at a Catholic school left me with issues that I have only recently begun to deal with and some of my own experiences were similar to those of the children at St. Gertrude the Great.
From day one of my own high school experiences, I was mercileslly bullied by one of my classmates. Of course, the sisters believed that boys would be boys and that things would get better. Unfortunately, they did not. As the school year dragged on, I kept receiving the same treatment from him. The harassment was consistently verbal, but on more than one occasion it became something else.
I spent most of my days at school in terror. I sought every outlet htat I could find in order not to deal with the day to day realities of what was happening to me. I spent a great deal of time in prayer and I isolated myself from the rest of the boys. I found comfort in one or two sisters at the school who could provide with the counsel I needed. Unfortunately, the counsel I received was to keep my mouth shut and offer the sufferings to God. “The angels are weaving you a crown in heaven,” I was told and I believe the nuns. After all, any of the pain that I suffered in this mortal exile would be nothing compared to the rewards of immortality.
Like the sons of the principal at St. Gertrude the Great, my bully was not one by chance. He came from a rather large family and had to put up with all kinds of nonsense from his older brothers as well as his father. In fact, I believe that the only reason why he treated me the way that he did is because he needed a punching bag on which to vent his frustrations over his situation at home. I understand this, but I also believe that if you are beaten to a bloody pulp that you should stand up for yourself and not use that anger on an innocent human being who has done nothing to you.
It is interesting, too, that my bully was never given any punishment by the administration. While he was suspended once or twice, he was never expelled. I’m not sure why this never happened, but I do remember how irate he was every time that he got punished. I suppose that he couldn’t understand that pushing somebody around has its consequences.
The administration also refused to believe me on occasion. I was told by the principal in no nonsense language that I brought the abuse down on my own head by the eccentricity of my mannerisms and the fact that I refused to blend in. Of course, that’s not the truth of my situation. Far from it. No victim asks to be bullied, no victim asks that he be punished. He is simply bullied because he is weak and he cannot stand up for himself.
Reading this litany of abuse, I feel a great deal of pain for the children who were at St. Gertrude the Great School. I know what it is like to live in absolute terror every day and I understand how awful such an experience is
It seems to me that some people do not report abuse because they are afraid of overturning the apple cart. In place lik St. Gertrude’s where the Sacraments are used as weapons, this is more than enough reason for some people to keep their mouths shut and their eyes closed. Rather than believe their own children, they simply keep on going as if nothing has happened.
It should also be noted here that filthy language and coarse gestures as well as the smoking of cigarettes is something that has never been tolerated at any Catholic school whether before or after the Council. St. John Baptist de La Salle wrote in one of his works on education that the only real reason why a student should be punished or expelled from the school was if he was being coarse and rebellious against teacher. According to De La Salle, such behavior was inexcusable and merited immediate expulsion.
Yet it seems to me that this behavior was allowed on the campus. Mr. Lotarski could not control his own children and, therefore, he allowed his sons to use and abuse those that were younger and weaker than them. Is this any way for a man to parent his own children? Is this what “hands off” parenting is about? If it is, then I would much rather use the rod on my own child than sparing it.
It should also be noted here that any person interesting educating young people within the confines of the state must undergo extensive psychological and other kinds of background checks before assuming his position in the classroom. If Mr. Lotarski had been sent to a state school to teach, he would never have been allowed to set foot in a classroom no matter what his credentials were and how he would have presented them. Indeed, he would have been fired years ago for his shenanigans if the administrators of the parish had had the stones to let him go.
It seems to me that the main problem with the sedevacantist movement and its schools is the fact that they are not obedient to any authority whatsoever. The fact that there is a Papal vacancy mean essentially that almost anything is allowed under the sun. Whether it is a bishop who calls his parishioners mentally ill from the pulpit or a principal that uses discipline that would not be tolerated elsewhere. Of course, not all sedevacantist school are like this and most are better than this.
In conclusion, I would like to ask that you continue to pray for the situation over at St. Gertrude’s. I will continue to beg Our Lady of the Rosary for whatever graces of conversion she can grant to the administrators. I ask you to continue to do the same.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!