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.

Ordained
: 1967
Died: 2003

   

Start Stop Parish Town/Accusations State Position Notes

1967

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.
1972 1973 St. Mary's

Port Washington

Widera was convicted in 1973 of sexual perversion. He admitted to the molestation of an 11 year old boy, and of several other boys. An allegation that he abused another boy was pending.

WI 2/2

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

Delavan

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.

WI

3/3

 

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          

Jan. 1977

Orange bishop was William Robert Johnson (1976-1986)

1977 Other Assignments/St. Pius V

Buena Park

Widera is said to have begun to sexually abuse boys in Orange County in 1977, some as young as nine years old.

CA  

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

Anaheim

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

Yorba Linda

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.

CA associate pastor  
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.

1986

Norman Francis McFarland succeeded Johnson as Orange bishop (1986-1998), followed by Tod David Brown (1998-)

2002 Inactive Leave

 

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
Letter from Orange Chancellor-Secretary to Milwaukee bishop, Jan. 17, 1977
Diocese of Orange memo, Sept. 24, 1985
Widera's personal history sheet, Oct. 16, 1985
Ex-Priest Spotted near Mexico, Long Beach Press-Telegram [Los Angeles CA] , Downloaded May 5, 2003
Fugitive Ex-Priest Jumps to His Death from Mazatlan Hotel Balcony, By Isaac Guzman, Associated Press, carried in Mercury News [Mexico], Downloaded May 27, 2003
Calif. Appeals Court Finds Milwaukee Archdiocese Liable, Herald Tribune [Santa Ana, Calif], Downloaded October 3, 2003
Church IDs 15 Abusive Priests, By Ray F. Herndon, Los Angeles Times [California], Downloaded January 11, 2004
Archdiocese Sues Insurance Companies to Force Coverage, By Tom Heinen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee WI], April 29, 2004
Information with Regard to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Archdiocese of Milwaukee, July 9, 2004
Hide the Buggering Priests! A Brief History of Pedophilic-Priest Shuffling in the Diocese of Orange, By Gustavo Arellano, Orange, County Weekly, July 9, 2004
Accused Priests of the Orange Diocese, Compiled by Gustavo Arellano, Posted in the OC Weekly, March 4, 2005
Orange Diocese Gives Details on Sex Abuse, By William Lobdell and Jean Guccione, LA Times, May 18, 2005
Second Chances, By Rachanee Srisavasdi, Andrew Galvin, Tony Saavedra, and Chris Knap, Orange County Register, May 18, 2005
Reports Show Failure of Therapy for Priests, By Jean Guccione and William Lobdell, Los Angeles Times [California], May 25, 2005
Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Suits against Archdiocese, By Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press, carried in Grand Fork Herald, August 29, 2006
Dismissal of Abuse Lawsuits Upheld, By Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press, carried in St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 30, 2006
Attorney: Archdiocese Settles Lawsuits, By Tom Heinen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 1, 2006
Archdiocese Avoids Bankruptcy with Sex-Abuse Settlement, By Brian T. Olszewski, Catholic Online, September 7, 2006
Judge Orders Release of Church Files on Molester Priest, By Peter Y. Hong, Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2007
Church Knew of Abuse by Priest, By Marie Rohde, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee WI], February 10, 2007

Priests 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.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Widera's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 23, 2012