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  Priest Leaves Ministry after Admitting Fondling Teen-Age Girl

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 31, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly admitted to fondling a 16-year-old girl more than 20 years ago has left the ministry, the Evansville Diocese announced Friday.

In a statement, the diocese said the Rev. Richard J. Wildeman left the ministry on Tuesday after admitting to the alleged sexual misconduct.

Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger summoned Wildeman, 51, back to Evansville from Haiti, where he had been serving, in early May after the woman told him of the alleged sexual misconduct, the statement said.

The woman told Gettelfinger she was 16 when Wildeman fondled her on more than one occasion more than 20 years ago, according to the statement. Wildeman told Gettelfinger the woman's story of the "fondling incidents were substantially true," the bishop's statement said.

Gettelfinger's statement said Wildeman was not removed from the active ministry, but decided after submitting to a psychological assessment that he would leave the ministry on his accord.

Wildeman finalized his decision to leave the ministry on Tuesday.

His departure from ministry comes only weeks after the diocese acknowledged that two of its priests, the Rev. Michael Allen and the Rev. Mark Kurzendoerfer, had sexual contact with minors more than 20 years ago.

Kurzendoerfer was removed from the ministry a week ago for allegedly having a past sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy. Allen remains pastor at St. Peter Celestine Catholic Church, but is prohibited from having contact with minors.

John Schroering, who befriended Wildeman in 1982 when the priest was pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper, said he is "disgusted" by the allegations.

"Dick's a great guy, but right now, it's tough to even come up with the words to describe how I feel. Angry. Concerned. Disgusted. Disappointed," Schroering told The Herald of Jasper.

Gettelfinger's statement said he has informed civil law enforcement authorities in Vanderburgh County of the alleged fondling incidents involving Wildeman.

Authorities with the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department and the Evansville Police Department told the Evansville Courier & Press on Friday that they had not received a report regarding the alleged incident.

A phone message was left Friday evening with the Evansville Diocese seeking additional comment on the case.

Wildeman has held a number of parish and diocesan assignments since he was ordained in 1977, including appointments as associate pastor at churches in Boonville, Evansville, Jasper, Mount Vernon and Newburgh.

In 1987, he was named pastor of St. Mary Church in Sullivan and administrator of St. Joan of Arc Church in Jasonville. Four years later, he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County.

Over the years, Wildeman was also assigned to youth ministry and was a Boy Scouts chaplain.

 
 

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