Francis Schuckardt, a man that many considered a “cult leader,” died last month. He led a group called the “Tridentine Latin Rite Church (TLRC),” in the Seattle area.
Schuckardt was accused of embezzlement, sexually abusing children and drug addiction. He died from cancer in early November.
A Web site run by a loyal follower reads, “On November 5, 2006, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop Francis K. Maria Schuckardt of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, departed this life and entered into eternity.”
Schuckardt was never recognized as a “bishop” by the Roman Catholic Church and was actually a pre-seminary dropout that was never ordained as a priest.
Schuckardt’s following reached its peak in the late 1970s when the TLRC bought a retreat for $1.5 million dollars. A critic later said that the group had become little more than “a personal cult of Francis Schuckardt and cannot call itself Catholic.”
By the time of his death there were few remaining followers and the group had dwindled to merely a few dozen diehards.
Many left the Schuckardt group citing harsh treatment and punishments imposed upon them by the “bishop.”
Punitive measures used within the group included such things as kneeling during meals or devotees walking on knees in the snow. Members might be forbidden to talk for days at a time. One girl’s head was shaved for simply speaking to a boy. TLRC children were routinely and severely beaten.
In 1984 some of Schuckardt’s followers claimed that he sexually abused them.
It was after these allegations arose that the “bishop” chose to flee rather than face his accusers. Schuckardt left with a core group of loyalists and $250,000 in cash.
The law caught up with him in California in 1987. A swat team raided Schuckardt’s house and found him holed up with several guns, $75,000 in cash, gold coins, silver ingots, German marks, Swiss francs, Canadian dollars, and records were discovered from more than a dozen bank accounts around the world. He also had a batch of prescription painkillers.
In October 1989, Schuckardt agreed to enter drug rehabilitation in exchange for dismissal of the charges.
Eventually the wandering “bishop” led his remaining flock back to Washington, where they settled in the Seattle area.
The TLRC drew attention in 2002 when two of its “nuns” were raped in Southern Oregon while fund-raising for the group. One was strangled with her rosary beads.
Three years later in 2005 the TLRC was once again in the news when a 78-year-old woman was taken from the group by her family that claimed she had been “brainwashed” by Schuckardt. The woman’s adult children told Denver News 9 that their mother had abandoned home and husband in 1992 to live with the TLRC in Washington state and that they had not seen her for years. The woman later returned to the group.
During 2005 numerous news reports detaled sexual abuse allegations regarding the TLRC. The mother of a 13-year-old boy said her son was repeatedly raped by group members. Later in 2006 another boy made similar charges regarding abuse within the TLRC.
Steven Kyle Kirkland and Donovan Patrick Olsen, both TLRC members, were charged in October.
Kirkland was charged with two counts of first-degree child rape. Olsen with one count of first-degree child molestation and one count of second-degree child molestation.
Upon his death Francis Schuckardt’s followers ceremoniously dressed him in ornate robes and accoutrements befitting of a “bishop” for his final viewing in an open coffin.
However, Schuckardt was a notorious and evil man, known for living a life largely based upon deceit and the shameless exploitation of others. He leaves behind a legacy of infamy, wreaked lives, broken families and raped children.