Bishop's Words Reveal Struggle over Friends Who Abused
February 17, 1997
[See links to all
the articles in this series from the Indianapolis Star.]
Two of the worst sexual abusers in the Lafayette Diocese were close friends
of Bishop William L. Higi. Monsignor Arthur Sego lived and traveled with
the bishop. The Rev. Ron Voss grew up in the same neighborhood as Higi
When the abuses of his two friends came to light, it fell to Higi to discipline
them. Sego, now retired, is supervised at a priest rest home in Missouri.
Voss received therapy and moved to Haiti. He resigned from the priesthood
Below, Higi and his vicar general, the Rev. Robert Sell, talk about the
pain of finding abusers in the priesthood. Their comments come from interviews
and written responses.
|William Higi [and] Robert Sell
Bishop Higi on his shock at learning that Sego was an abuser:
"I had no clues at all, none whatsoever. (In) hindsight, you can
look back. He was very attracted to children. They flocked to him. People
thought that was wonderful. ... But I had no inkling that he was suffering
from this illness. He wasn't an obscene man."
Higi on disciplining his friend Voss:
"We knew each other for years. While it would be easy to concentrate
on how difficult it
was to do what you have to do, on the other hand, the safety of children
and the good of the church and the reputation of the priesthood supersede
any other considerations."
Higi on punishing pedophile priests:
"If you accept the professional view that it's a disorder, incarceration
doesn't seem to do anything to address the disorder. . If you're concerned
about victims and concerned that this never happen again, it's difficult
for me to see how incarceration addresses the basic challenges that are
Higi on feeling anger at abusive priests:
"It's a sad thing when someone has this illness. There is a tendency
to become angry because it's often confused with a moral defect. Do you
get angry when someone who is very close to you dies of cancer? I think
you do, but you have to realize that it is an illness."
|Ron Voss [and] Arthur Sego
Vicar General Sell on Higi's friendship with Sego and Voss:
"I don't think it was a case of either one of them taking advantage
of a friendship with the bishop ... (It was) an unfortunate coincidence
that these two gentlemen who happen to be personal friends of the bishop
were in fact the perpetrators of some very wrongful acts."
Higi on his continuing relationship with Voss and on having lived
"(The) issue is whether I act responsibly when concerns about priests
are brought to my attention. The number of times I may have shook hands
with Ron Voss or if I spent time visiting him this past summer (in Haiti)
or the number of times I have had dinner with Art Sego is irrelevant to
Higi on the anguish abusers feel at leaving the ministry:
"The pain that individuals who have to give up the priesthood suffer
is ... probably more acute than any incarceration would ever be."
Higi on his feelings for victims and their abusers:
"I have the greatest empathy for somebody who has ended up in this
situation. ... My heart bleeds for the (victims). I can't begin to imagine
the agony. And I also empathize for those who have been perpetrators.
They have to be absolutely miserable when they begin to comprehend what
Sell on the pain Higi suffered at his friends' abuses:
"I can recall some – many – painful discussions with
the bishop about his own personal feeling of betrayal. And his own feeling
of, 'I should have seen, I should have known.'
"He could easily identify with the victims who had obviously been
betrayed and been abused. ... (He) felt that the trust and confidence
that he had placed in these men was misplaced."
Higi on the pain of disciplining his friends:
"My personal feelings are irrelevant. ... The issue is whether this
man (the bishop) acts decisively and responsibly."