St. Casimir Catholic School

he Hammond Police Department confirmed an allegation of abuse that was reported Jan. 25 at St. Casimir School in Hammond has been investigated and the information provided to the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office.

HAMMOND | St. Casimir Pastor William "Bill" O'Toole has stepped down from his position as pastor at St. Casimir and at All Saints Catholic Church after he was seen Aug. 9 walking naked through St. Casimir Catholic School.

Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said police were called to St. Casimir School in the early evening of Aug. 9. He said a caller told the dispatcher a man was seen through a window walking around the school naked.

"Officers located an adult male in a state of undress inside of the school," Hoyda said. "School officials ... were already on scene and had knowledge of the situation. The man was allowed to dress and at that time he was not placed under arrest."

Hoyda said detectives are investigating the incident. Once the investigation is complete, the information will be referred to the Lake County prosecutor's office for review.

Hoyda did not release the priest's name, however, the diocese identified him.

O'Toole, 45, of Hammond, was ordained at the Catholic Diocese of Gary in 1996. He has been pastor at St. Casimir Church since 2004. Prior to that, he was at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage.

Diocesan spokeswoman Debbie Bosak released a statement Thursday, saying a school secretary was there at the time who initially unlocked the door for police and was asked by officers to vacate the property.

"No other persons were involved and, being a Sunday, there were certainly no children present," the statement said. "The secretary was not aware of Father O'Toole's presence in the building. At that time, police indicated it was not a criminal offense and no charges were filed."

Bishop Donald J. Hying was made aware and began taking actions in accordance with diocesan policies, the statement said.

"At this time, Father O’Toole has stepped down as pastor of St. Casimir and All Saints. He will be on a leave of absence and will be undergoing a psychological evaluation at the direct request of Bishop Hying," the statement said.

Bosak and Gary Catholic Diocese Superintendent Barbara O'Block pointed out that O'Toole was on private property and inside the school building. "That belongs to the diocese. He was in charge of that property," Bosak said.

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"He (O'Toole) apologized and said it's a regrettable lack of judgment on his part," Bosak said.

O'Block said the diocese was not aware of any similar incident involving O'Toole. She said she didn't think the diocese would pursue any charges against him.

"I don't know what sort of charges could be pursued," she said.

The issue came to light Wednesday during the St. Casimir School parent orientation. Principal Lorenza Pastrick read a statement to parents about the incident. Parents came away from the meeting voicing concerns about whether it had ever happened before, if any children had ever been harmed and whether O'Toole would be removed from his position.

Parent Eleanor Torres said she was shocked.

"You could hear a pin drop in that room," she said.

Torres said Pastrick was asked to read the statement twice before Pastrick was flooded with questions.

"She was crying as she read it," Torres said. "Lots of parents are very angry now. I've got to go home and question my daughter to find out if anything ever happened to her. They also didn't tell us he would never come back. They told us about the psych evaluation. They told us he was going to get treatment. They hemmed and hawed on whether he would be able to come back," Torres said.

Torres also said several parents are considering removing their children from the school.

"I'm on the fence. If he returns, he will need to be kept far away from children," she said.

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.