"We believe this agreement brings closure to all cases in California..." stated Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan when commenting on the outcome of 10 abuse cases filed in California against two former diocesan priests, Siegfried Widera and Franklyn Becker.
In 2002 the California Legislature passed a controversial law suspending the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases committed by clergy for a period of one year. The new law allowed the 10 cases to be filed in California against Widera, now deceased, and Becker, now laicized [defrocked].
The cases resulted in an agreement for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to pay the 10 victims/survivors $16.65 million dollars. $8.40 million will be paid by insurance, while $8.25 million will be paid directly by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee through liquidation of short- and long-term investments.
Widera is dead, but THIRTY YEARS before his death Siegfried Widera was convicted of sexual perversion. Widera admitted he was guilty of the crime as well as guilty of having similar conduct with other boys, yet the archdiocese did virtually nothing to protect your children from this sexual predator.
Sure, they sent him to a church-employed therapist and transferred him to a different parish, but within a three year period another accusation surfaced.
In 1976, an Elkhorn WI therapist was treating a boy who had been abused by Widera. Instead of encouraging the mother of the youngster to go to the police, the therapist persuaded the boy's mother not to go to the authorities as the therapist was assured Widera would get inpatient treatment.
After the incident, Widera left the ministry and moved to Orange County, California to live with relatives.
While in California personnel from the Milwaukee Archdiocese discussed Widera with his treating psychologist and the psychologist recommended Widera no longer serve in the Milwaukee archdiocese. The psychologist did not rule out Widera working in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee at a later date or working at a different archdiocese.
Widera was granted a return to ministry in the Diocese of Orange and eventually was incardinated in the Orange Diocese where further alleged abuse took place.
By 2002 Widera had 33 felony sex abuse charges filed against him by California authorities, and by 2003 had 11 felony charges issued against him by Wisconsin authorities that were filed in 2002 and 2003 for abuse that had allegedly taken place in the early 70's.
After a warrant was issued for his arrest, Widera went on the run and on May 27, 2003 he was cornered at a hotel in Mexico and jumped over the balcony to his death.
This man had thirty years to abuse your children with the archdiocese doing nothing to protect the youngsters and everything to protect Widera.
On February 5, 2007 Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman of LA ordered the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to release, within 30 days, insurance records and confidential disciplinary files on Widera to the public.
The records have never been made public before due to protections provided to churches by Wisconsin State Statutes.
The Diocese of Orange agreed to victim/survivor settlements of $100 million in December of 2004, including the Widera plaintiffs. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was not part of those settlements.
Multi-million dollar settlements against dioceses are not limited to Milwaukee and Orange. Some larger settlements include: Covington, Ky. ($85 million); Boston ($85 million); Sacramento ($35 million); and Providence, R.I. ($13.5 million).
These are the known settlements. What about the unknown? How prevalent is sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church? How many children are sexually abused by priests every day? How would we ever know? If these cases are paid off and swept under the carpet how would anyone know the magnitude of the problem?
How much have all these cases cost the Catholic Church throughout the years? Would the church save money by allowing their priests to marry? Why is it that all these cases take place in the United States when there are lots of other countries in the world that have Catholic priests. How is it that we never hear anything about these same problems in other countries? Do all sexual predators reside in the U.S.?
Project Safe Childhood (PSC) is a major initiative by the Department of Justice to combat technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children.
Maybe it's time for our authorities to spend less time looking on the Internet for child pornographers and more time in churches checking out the hands-on approach provided youngsters by some local priests.