Clergy Abuse Victim Donates Settlement Money

February 21, 2008

For years, WISN 12 News has reported stories of sexual abuse of children by clergy members, but 12 News reporter Nick Bohr has a different story to report -- the story of the journey of a teenage boy victimized by a Wisconsin priest and the remarkable thing he's doing that's helped him to heal.

Bohr traveled to California to bring the story to life.

The victim was hesitant to tell his story, not because of the nature of what happened to him, but because he didn't want to draw attention to himself for what he's chosen to do with a massive financial settlement he's received.

It was an ideal childhood, growing up in San Diego just a few blocks from the beach. But for then 15-year-old Nick Jordan, his idyllic childhood crashed to an end in of all places in a place where he had every right to feel the most secure -- his church.

"When someone is raped by a priest, they're raped body and soul. And that's the situation," Jordan said.

Now 45 years old, Jordan can talk about the numerous sexual assaults by the Rev. Franklyn Becker, a priest who transferred to California from Milwaukee after numerous abuse allegations made it hard for him to find a job here.

"There were times when he would literally chase me around the house. Literally, not just like moving away, me actually running," Jordan said.

"Nick says he just couldn't bring himself to tell his parents, and Becker continued to take things further and further both at the rectory and on various outings he'd set up with Nick," Nick Bohr said.

"Father Becker did tell me no one would believe me. 'You can tell someone, but no one will believe you, who will believe you over a priest?'" Jordan said.

Jordan said he was singled out because he worked in the church office. He couldn't bring himself to talk about the sexual assaults until just a few years ago when he reported it to police and his mother.

"When I told her in 2003, I think, she said 'Why didn't you tell me?' And ah, how do you say something like that? Especially when you're a kid?" Jordan said.

But in the wake of the nationwide priest abuse scandal in 2002, Jordan said the emotion washed over him.

"That's when the shame and the remorse hit me, of, you know, if I'd said something how many boys could maybe have not been molested?" Jordan said.

The statute of limitations had expired on criminal charges, but Jordan pursued civil charges against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for allowing Becker to transfer to California without warning.

"As God is my witness, when I said something in 2002, I said, 'You know what? I didn't have the guts to say something then, and even in my early adult years, but I'm going to say something now,'" Jordan said.

Jordan learned Wisconsin law prevented Becker's victims in Wisconsin from suing, so when he was awarded more than $1 million in a settlement, he decided to give much of it back, donating tens of thousands of dollars to help sexual abuse victims in Milwaukee even though he'd never been here.

"Since the guys in Wisconsin that were molested by Becker have no recourse, I want to give back and say thank you to those organizations who were there for them," Jordan said.

Jordan wanted the donations to be anonymous, but he came to realize he needed to be more visible.

"If what I'm doing can then somehow inspire someone else who is able to lend a helping hand, to me that's what it's all about," Jordan said.

"It's a very rare thing. It's a very rare thing. It's wonderful," said Daniel Magnuson of the Counseling Center of Milwaukee.

Far from Jordan's home, the money is helping The Counseling Center of Milwaukee. It works extensively with young people and adults struggling with the effects of sexual assault.

"It's like an angel in a lot of ways. And given his journey, that's kind of an appropriate connection. He just basically called out of the blue," Magnuson said.

Money is also going to five other charities in the Milwaukee area that deal with the aftermath of abuse.

"A real testament to his heart, and what drives him, in terms of his commitment to healing and bringing wholeness," Magnuson said.

After years of restricted duty, Becker was kicked out of the priesthood in 2004 and is living in Mayville, Wis. He didn't wish to talk about Jordan when Bohr approached him this month.

"I'm Nick Bohr with Channel 12," Bohr said.

"I'm sorry, I have nothing to say to you. Please, please don't bother me. I'm not in good health," Becker said.

Becker is hardly repentant, Bohr said. In a letter to 12 News sent the next day, Becker bemoaned that he has not received any money from Jordan, writing, "He cost me my life savings and more -- $15,000 for legal fees." Becker further wrote, "Perhaps he hopes for an appearance on Oprah."

"If I didn't have my faith, I don't know where I would be," Jordan said.

Yet through his journey, Jordan said he's revived his faith -- gone from a sense of abandonment to a place where he can inspire others.

"The soul has been raped. It's been harmed, but it's not dead. And that faith is not dead. And those of us, the survivors that are able to stand on our own two feet, I think it's all about just extending a hand and helping someone back on their feet," Jordan said.

When Bohr asked the Milwaukee archdiocese for a reaction to Jordan's donations, it responded with the following statement:

"How private citizens choose to spend the money they received in the California settlements, or through the independent mediation system in place here in the archdiocese of Milwaukee, really is a personal decision. There are countless people who will be helped by Nick's generosity and we are grateful for that."

Jordan told Bohr that he has looked into possibly joining a religious order, perhaps living in a monastery.

While he's determining whether that's the right move, he continues his work in the film industry and keeping in touch with the Milwaukee charities he's donating to.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.