Sunday, February 11, 2007

Widera: Was it "Dr." Leo Graham, or Abp. Cousins?

A California court ruled that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee should release its personnel records on one of Milwaukee's most notorious child-abusing priests, Fr. Sigfried Widera. But there's more to the story than just Bishops and other priests.

The JSOnline's story reports as follows:

From Siegfried Widera's earliest days as a Roman Catholic priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, church officials and others acting on the church's behalf knew he was sexually abusing young boys and continually placed his well-being above that of parishioners' in various dioceses, according to newly released court documents.

The documents describe a man for whom molesting boys was like breathing air or eating food, yet who was sent to California by an archbishop who said he was "no great risk" doing pastoral work and was dealing merely with "legal complications" as a result of a "moral problem."

...Just six years after his ordination, Widera was arrested in Port Washington for having sexual contact with an 11-year-old boy. He admitted to the crime and to similar conduct with several other boys but was charged with only one count of what was known as sexual perversion. He avoided jail; he was placed on three years' probation and ordered to stay out of Ozaukee County.

But here, 3/4ths of the way through the story, we find a non-Bishop/non-priest who was a very influential and significant actor in the story:

After his arrest, Widera began seeing Leo Graham, a church-employed therapist, who was in frequent contact with archdiocesan officials, the records say.

Graham played an integral role in finding a new church assignment for his patient. Widera's placement had to be considered carefully, he said.

On June 29, 1976, archdiocesan officials learned of new abuse accusations from an Elkhorn therapist who was treating a boy. After a church official assured the therapist that Widera would receive inpatient treatment, the therapist persuaded the victim's mother not to go to the police.

A July 7, 1976, entry in a vicar's log kept by the archdiocese says, however: "
Leo (Graham) doubts value of inpatient treatment."

It also notes that "Graham feels that 'one slip' in 3 years is not too bad a track record."

Really, Leo?

Archdiocesan officials set in motion a plan to get Widera out of Wisconsin. Initially, he would go "on vacation" to California. But Milwaukee Archbishop William Cousins said Widera should prepare for reassignment.

Graham was upset that Widera was about to be moved without his input. He said Widera should remain in Delavan - he still was on probation - and Graham said he would see the abused child in what the vicar's log called "a one-shot evaluation of the boy to determine if there is any traumatic damages (usually in these cases, there is not)."

We don't doubt that the Archdiocese was wrong.

But I'd like to know exactly how "Dr." Graham retained so much influence with the Archdiocese.

Dr. Graham seems to have a history: (Terry Berres' history at this link is very useful, but not enjoyable.)

Graham surrendered his license to practice in Wisconsin in 1987 for having inappropriate sexual contact with patients.

That was not the only problem "Dr." Graham had. Although Widera was a serious offender, one who was even worse was Fr. Effinger, who molested his way through several assignments, too.

What was "Dr." Graham's opinion of Effinger?

Graham’s report concluded that he believed Father Effinger was “not a pedophile,” although he was concerned about his alcohol use.

Yeah, I guess that might have been a problem, too, "Dr." Graham.

It's a very sad story all around, filled with denials, utter stupidity, and broken boys. But it isn't just Archbishops and priests.


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