|Rev. Siegfried F. Widera
Summary of Case: Widera was a serial child molester, arrested and convicted of "sexual perversion" six years after ordination. Nonetheless, he was kept in ministry in the Milwaukee archdiocese. After more allegations surfaced the archdiocese arranged for his transfer to the diocese of Orange, which accepted Widera despite being told Widera had had a "moral problem with a boy" with a "recent repetition". Widera was removed from ministry in 1985 after further accusations, and sent to treatment in Jimez, New Mexico. He dropped out of treatment and became a businessman. In 2002 Widera was charged with 42 counts of child molestation in Wisconsin and California. He fled the U.S. and was found in May 2003 in Mazatlan, Mexico where he jumped off of a hotel balcony to his death as law enforcement officials surrounded the building.
Milwaukee archbishop was William Edward Cousins (1958-1977)
|1968||St. John Nepomuc's (Bohemian)||Milwaukee||WI||2/3||Parish had a school with 341 students.|
|1968||1972||St. Mary, Help of Christians (Slovene)||West Allis||WI||2/2||Parish had a school with 188-244 students.|
Parish had a school with 351 students.
Widera was sentenced to three years' probation. His church employed therapist helped find Widera's next assignment.
|1973||Sept. 1976||St. Andrew's||
• The archdiocese was informed by a therapist in June 1976 that a boy he was treating disclosed that he had been sexually abused by Widera. Widera was kept in the parish for at least six more weeks, and was told by archdiocesan officials to prepare to move when his probation ended.
• In 2006 three men accused Widera in a lawsuit of having sexually abused them when they were boys, between 1974 and 1976.
Parish had a school with 227-222 students.
Parishioners were not told of Siegfried's conviction or history of sexually abusing children. Some wrote to the archdiocese that they were impressed with Widera's interest in and rapport with children.
The archdiocese told the therapist of the boy who disclosed abuse in June 1976 that Widera would go to inpatient treatment. The therapist, in turn, persuaded the boy's mother not to report Widera to the police.
Widera's therapist, Leo Graham, noted that "one slip in three years is not too bad".
Milwaukee archdiocesan officials made plans for Widera to go on "vacation" to see his brother in Southern California, and for getting the diocese of Orange to allow Widera to serve as a priest there. They also told Widera that they would "keep a lid on things".
|Sept. 1976||Jan. 1977|
Orange bishop was William Robert Johnson (1976-1986)
|1977||Other Assignments/St. Pius V||
• Widera is said to have begun to sexually abuse boys in Orange County in 1977, some as young as nine years old.
Widera is listed in the Milwaukee archdiocesan pages of the 1977 Directory as atSt. Pius, but he is not listed as there in the Orange diocesan pages.
The diocese of Orange accepted Widera despite a warning from Milwaukee archbishop Cousins that there had been "a moral problem having to do with a boy in school", and that there had been a "more recent "repetition", so Widera needed to leave the state of Wisconsin for legal reasons. Cousins also said "there would seem no great risk in allowing this man to return to pastoral work".
|1977||1981||Other Assignments/St. Justin Martyr||
• Widera has been accused of sexually abusing boys at this parish.
|CA||2/4, 3/3||Parish had a school with 383-333 students.|
|1977||1981||Sacred Heart||Independencia||CA||This was a mission of St. Justin Martyr.|
|1981||1984||St. Edward's||Dana Point||CA||2/2, 2/3||Parish had a school with 65-216 students.|
|1984||Sept. 1985||Immaculate Heart of Mary||Santa Ana||CA||3/4||Parish had a school with 273 students.|
|Sept. 1985||St. Martin de Porres||
• In 1985 someone reported to Orange Chancellor Michael Driscoll that Widera was seen molesting four or five boys in a swimming pool.
• In Sept. 1985 a woman told Driscoll that Widera inappropriately touched her son when Widera was tucking the boy into bed.
|Sept. 1985||1986||Sick Leave||Jemez Springs||NM||Widera was removed from ministry in Sept. 1985 and sent to the Servants of the Paraclete treatment facility in New Mexico. He was diagnosed with pedophilia. He admitted to molesting at least 10 boys in Orange County. The center's director tried to find another diocese to take Widera, despite his history and diagnosis. Widera dropped out of the treatment program early and went into business.|
Norman Francis McFarland succeeded Johnson as Orange bishop (1986-1998), followed by Tod David Brown (1998-)
• In 2002 more people came forward with accusations of child sexual abuse by Widera. He was charged with 42 counts of molestation in Orange County and Milwaukee.
|AZ||businessman||Widera fled the United States in 2002 for Mexico to escape arrest for child sexual abuse charges in Wisconsin and California. The subject of a manhunt, he died in May 2003 after jumping from a hotel balcony in Mazatlan, Mexico. The hotel had been surrounded by law enforcement officers.|
Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1968-2002)
• Letter from Milwaukee archbishop Cousins to Orange bishop Johnson, Dec. 20, 1976
in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's
place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest
listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor)
and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4
means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample
page from the Directory.