Parishes Shocked to Learn about Priest
Accounts of Sex Abuse Made Public about Late Cleric
By Peter Maller
Journal Sentinel Online
April 24, 2002
Members of three Roman Catholic parishes said they were shocked to learn that their former priest sexually assaulted boys, and one parishioner questioned whether a hall at St. James parish in Mequon should continue to be named in honor of Father Edmund Haen.
Members of St. James, St. Kilian in Hartford and St. Frances Cabrini in West Bend learned Sunday about the past abuse by Haen from a column by Jim Stingl in the Journal Sentinel.
Stan Kulfan of Mequon, a former parish council member at St. James and a current Ozaukee County Board supervisor, said Tuesday he was in "complete shock" to learn Haen led a secret life that involved molesting children.
Haen was liked and respected, but church leaders should think about removing his name from church property, Kulfan said.
"I think the inclination would be that the name of the room should probably be changed," Kulfan said.
Jerry Topczewski, spokesman for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, did not return phone calls for comment Tuesday. Archbishop Rembert Weakland will talk with the priests from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. today in a meeting that will be closed to the public.
Columnist Stingl reported that Haen had abused John Maurice when he was an altar boy in Milwaukee in the 1940s.
Maurice, now 70, estimated that Haen molested and sodomized him more than 100 times while he was a pupil at St. Lawrence Church near Layton Blvd. and Greenfield Ave. in Milwaukee. Maurice said he knew of at least two other boys Haen had abused. Maurice said some of the abuse occurred at Haen's family farm in Sheboygan County.
Haen was transferred in 1947 to St. Kilian in Hartford and in 1955 to St. Frances Cabrini in West Bend. He was sent to Mequon in 1972, where he remained until 1990, a year after Maurice reported Haen's abuse to Weakland.
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba later wrote Maurice saying that Haen, when confronted with Maurice's allegations, "acknowledged responsibility for unacceptable behavior on his part." Haen was forced into retirement in 1990 and restricted from performing priestly duties in 1992. He died seven years later at age 81.
Kulfan and members of churches in Hartford and West Bend said they had no idea about Haen's past. Haen officiated at Kulfan's wedding when he married his wife, Joan, in 1974.
Parishioners respected Haen for working hard to construct a new church in the mid-1970s, Kulfan said. He remembered Haen for having a strong personality that was suited to managing such a large task.
"I had respect for Father Haen - and I still do," said Kulfan, who served on the church council after Kulfan left the parish. "I have respect for all clergy. Of course, I am disappointed in what's occurred. But my faith isn't tied to the acts of one priest. It's not for me to judge. The good Lord will do that."
Victor Albiero, a charter member of St. Frances Cabrini, said he "was sick" when he read about Haen's sexual involvement with young boys.
"I'm sure there were some people who knew what was going on," but he was not one of them, Albiero said.
Albiero also admired Haen's determination to construct a new church for the parish soon after arriving at the West Bend parish. Members had been conducting services in a school gymnasium until Haen took charge of erecting a new sanctuary, Albiero said.
"I always said to my wife, 'If I was the bishop, I would move him around just to build churches,' " Albiero said. "He was very good at it."
Albiero said he never heard anything negative about Haen, and the latest revelations did nothing to shake his faith in the Catholic Church.
Paul Quick, 78, a lifelong member of St. Kilian, remembered Haen "as a good guy." News of Haen's hidden past came as "a big surprise," he said.
"I knew him very well," Quick said. "He was a very nice individual. I never heard anything negative about him at all. I guess you just never know."
- Section: Religion
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