Group Wants Priest Who's Being Sued Recalled from Overseas

By Patricia Rice
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis MO]
September 24, 2003

A sexual abuse victims advocacy group is asking the Marianist order to bring a missionary priest back from overseas.

The priest, the Rev. William Christiansen, 61, of Bangladesh, is being sued in St. Louis Circuit Court for allegedly sexually abusing a former Chaminade College Preparatory School boarding student in 1975.

"We worry about the safety of children in Third World countries where priests are more revered and trusted than here," said David Clohessy, of St. Louis, the national director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.

Five network members stood outside a downtown law office Wednesday holding up pictures of Michael Powel, including one from the 1974-75 Chaminade yearbook, as he gave his deposition against Christiansen.

The Marianists are willing to bring the priest to St. Louis if Powel's lawyer requests it, the Marianists' leader said.

"If his lawyer requests it, I would bring (Christiansen) back to be served," said U.S. Marianist Provincial Stephen Glodek of St. Louis.

"Last September, when they were in the discovery phase, we gave (the lawyer) Father Christiansen's phone number, e-mail address and street address. The lawyer has not requested his deposition," Glodek said.

Christiansen has worked in urban development in Bangladesh since 1986. Before that, he spent eight years in India.

The order encourages any credible allegations against its members, Glodek said. Allegations are referred to the order's national sex abuse lay review board, he said.

A few years ago, while being treated for a brain tumor, Powel, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he remembered being abused by four people: a Connecticut school custodian, two Chaminade teachers - Christiansen and Brother John Wolfe - and a schoolmate's mother, Powel said in a recent interview. Powel was a boarding student at Chaminade for the 1975 spring semester and part of the following fall semester.

"I am just trying to help kids," Powel said after his 5 1/2-hour deposition session. "I love the church, it's our church, the people's church, it was my mother's church, grandparents' church, great-grandparents' church, and on and on. These guys are just running it."

After Powel sued the Connecticut school, its janitor, now 78, was fired. The Marianists dismissed Wolfe, 64, of Chicago, in the mid-1970s because he refused to go to a treatment center after an allegation of sex abuse was made against him, said Diane Guerra, a Marianist spokeswoman.

Reporter Patricia Rice:


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