February 10, 2005

Archdiocese faces new type of lawsuit: Fraud

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Posted: Feb. 10, 2005
A priest convicted of child molestation abused another boy while on court-ordered probation in 1976, yet officials at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee didn't notify police, according to archdiocesan records filed Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Instead, church leaders persuaded the boy's mother to stay quiet and transferred the priest, Sigfried Widera, to California, the records show.

Had they spoken up, Widera - now deceased - could have been sent to prison on a probation violation, rather than to two parishes in California, where he reportedly molested at least nine other children.

The internal archdiocese documents, divulged as part of a lawsuit in California, are the basis of a civil fraud suit filed here Thursday on behalf of an alleged victim when Widera was at St. Andrew Parish in Delavan.

"These documents of conspiracy, deception and fraud show that church officials, at the very highest levels, conspired to keep parents, pastors, and most of all the police from intervening and saving children like myself," said Sharon Tarantino, who said Widera abused her in 1971.

No one at the archdiocese would discuss the suit, but a written statement said that "all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor received by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are immediately reported to the appropriate civil authorities." The statement also says the archdiocese "continues to work proactively toward resolution of any issues brought to us by victims/survivors of sexual abuse as a minor by diocesan clergy."

Posted by kshaw at February 10, 2005 10:55 PM