|Burlington Man Says
He Was Abused
Waldorf alleged St. John's priest touched him inappropriately
By Dale Alison
The Hawk Eye (Burlington IA)
April 27, 2002
David Waldorf's childhood was far from idyllic. His father was a drunk and often would come home in an angry stupor, threaten him, his mother and his siblings.
Reared a Catholic, Waldorf enjoyed the sanctuary St. John's Church in Burlington provided from the upheaval at home. But the worse his father's alcoholism became, the less the family attended mass.
One particular night when he was 16, Waldorf, now 55, recalled his father in a particular drunk-en rage.
"He threatened to kill me and threw me out of the house," Waldorf recalled.
Frightened and confused, Waldorf went to the St. John Rectory where he sought solace from a priest recently sent to Burlington from St. Benedictine's Abbey in Atchison, Kan.
The two of them sat on the rectory steps where Waldorf poured out his story. The priest, he said, slipped his hand down the young man's pants and fondled him for between 20 and 25 minutes.
While thoroughly uncomfortable with what was going on, Waldorf said he did nothing. "Catholic children were taught that the pope was infallible and that no one is higher in your own town than your priest."
Waldorf said that on Monday he is prepared to sign an affidavit stating Placidus Keever [Kieffer: see correction below] molested him. Keever, who died several years ago, was an assistant pastor at St. John's from 1963 to 1969.
"Did I know it was wrong?" Waldorf said. "Yes. Did I do anything about it? No."
But he never again sought sanctuary at the church — until now.
For the past 15 years, Waldorf, now a truancy officer with the Burlington School District, has sought to re-establish a relationship with a church.
"I had a kid ask one day about God," he said. "That may have been a turning point."
But he wasn't ready for the Catholic church.
At first he explored fundamentalism and spent about seven years with the Assembly of God. Waldorf called it "a really good place to learn about God," but he chafed at constraints within that church and drifted away.
He looked at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and admired the universal priesthood, members' commitment to tithing and the sacraments. He joined the church and was baptized a Mormon.
Still memories — the good memories — of the church of his youth tugged at him ... the smell of the candles, the statues, the reverent ceremony.
"Still, there's something pretty powerful," he said. "Others are not that fulfilling."
With that, about 18 months ago he began attending classes in West Burlington for former Catholics, Catholics who have "issues" with the church. He wants to become active again in the church. But that experience nearly 40 years ago is proving to be a considerable obstacle.
Waldorf disclosed his experience with the former St. John's priest to the group and while no other member has acknowledged similar abuse, he said each has been supportive. Waldorf is aware of only one other incident involving the priest, an incident he said occurred two years later.
Waldorf has worked closely with St. John's current priest, John Hyland, to reconcile events. But he remains angry and frustrated that the church refuses to acknowledge its problem.
Earlier this month, his group of former Catholics met with Bishop William Franklin of the Davenport Diocese. The discussions, Waldorf said, were pointed — and frustrating.
"This is our church!" Waldorf said. "Everyone spoke with him with some real anguish and asked, was your vow to the flock or to the institution?"
Another meeting with Frank-lin is scheduled Monday.
"The church doesn't seem to want to pay attention until someone threatens to sue or make a public accusation," Waldorf said and after more than a year dealing with the church bureaucracy, he said he's fed up and is making his accusations public.
The Hawk Eye has made repeated attempts to schedule an interview with Franklin and Vicar General Drake Shafer in Davenport. An initial meeting was delayed until Chancellor Irene Loftus returned to work last week after being gone several days due to a family emergency.
Following Loftus' return, another attempt at scheduling an interview was unsuccessful, and though interest was expressed in talking to Franklin in Davenport or elsewhere in the diocese by this weekend, The Hawk Eye was not contacted again with a possible meeting time. An offer by the chancellor to submit questions by e-mail and receive a response in-kind was rejected in favor of a face-to-face meeting.
Waldorf says the stonewalling hurts more than the molestation.
"I've come to terms with it," Waldorf said. "I've come to terms with the event. It didn't hurt me."
At least not consciously.
His wife of seven years would disagree.
"Don't you get it?" she asked him one day. "In an hour that day, you learned you couldn't trust anyone. Not your family, your father tossed you out. Not your church, you were molested."
Still, Waldorf says he's more at peace with his faith than ever. He's upset, though, with how the Catholic church has responded to his accusations.
"It's not the event," he continued, "it's how it has been dealt with.
"These people should be running, not walking, to these people and asking how we can help."
"I'm mad that some of my money has paid off some of this silence," he said.
In early February, at the start of Lent and just as news of the sexual abuse scandal in America's largest Catholic diocese, Boston, started unraveling, Hyland read a statement from the pulpit.
In it, Hyland acknowledged the allegations against the church. He went on, "we regret to inform there has been a charge of priestly misconduct made against a priest who served at St. John's in the 1960s," he read. "This priest is now deceased and has been for some time."
Hyland later acknowledged he was referring to Waldorf's charge, but said he was unaware of any other allegations involving Keever.
"We are deeply saddened as a church by these allegations, however they reflect the weakness and human frailties that mark us as a church," he said.
Hyland encouraged parishioners who had been similarly harmed to bring it to his attention or to officials with the Davenport diocese.
"Any or all of us will do our very best to be of assistance," he concluded.
Even though the statement led to the disclosure that another Benedictine priest serving Burlington had been accused of sexual misconduct, which has led to Donald Redmond's removal from a church in northeast Kansas, Waldorf contends the statement was insufficient. For starters, as the parishioner who made the allegation, he was upset that the Hyland referred only to "priestly misconduct"
Waldorf has met with representatives from the Benedictine abbey, who he said greeted him with, "We have checked with our legal representatives and are prepared to offer you counseling."
Furthermore, Waldorf said he was asked if the priest was employing a "counseling technique."
Waldorf was offended.
"How dare the church act so superior when it was acting in a criminal manner?" he said. "Your (the church's) only function is to take care of us."
He wants the Davenport diocese to disclose the names of priests accused of misdeeds. Only then, he maintains, will other Catholics who may have been victims of predatory priests feel at peace with their religion and their faith.
To date, only one priest other than Redmond who has served an Iowa parish has been "summarily retired" due to accusations he molested an altar boy. That incident took place in Sioux City and because the allegation was so old, charges were never filed.
Church authorities said the victim was provided with assistance and therapy, and the accused priest, George McFadden, never returned to ministry.
For Waldorf, by stepping forward with his allegations, he is hoping to help others.
"It's always been my desire to be part of the solution and not a
problem identifier," he said. "I want to help. I want to help
Another priest, Donald Redmond, who has been accused of molesting another Burlington man served at St. John's at three different times, from 1958 to 1963; 1965 to 1967; and 1974 to 1984.
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