Daniel Budzynski Case Shows Patterns of Secrecy, Parish-Shifting
By Karen Herzog
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 1, 2013
It took nearly 40 years from the first time Milwaukee priest Daniel Budzynski sexually abused a child until he was finally, firmly told by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan not to wear his collar in public or present himself as a priest.
Budzynski, who told authorities that he was sexually abused as a child, was linked in 1994 to the sexual abuse of some 50 individuals at 11 different parishes between 1965 and 1994. He admitted to about 30 incidents and described several in detail, but he was never criminally charged.
When the first allegation from a victim surfaced in August 1973, then-Archbishop William Cousins told Budzynski to take a leave of absence because remaining in the parish could induce publicity that should be avoided.
In 1982, officials sent Budzynski to a residential treatment facility for alcohol abuse and psychosexual problems. But once he completed the program, he continued to offend.
His destructive path is detailed in correspondence and internal files released Monday as part of Archdiocesan bankruptcy proceedings. The Budzynski case illustrates the church's practice of transferring documented predators from parish to parish over decades while the abuse continued and officials worried about the financial liability if victims came forward.
At least three of his victims agreed to cash settlements in 2005 of $50,000 to $70,000 each.
In one case in the 1960s, Budzynski was simultaneously engaged in sexual activity with a young boy, his mother and her female friend, according to the files. Another incident, in October 1981, took place in a family's home while the parents slept.
In that incident, a family reported they had invited Budzynski, a family friend, to their home for dinner on a Friday night. After drinking heavily throughout the evening, he then stayed the night at the family's home.
After the parents went to bed, Budzynski made sexual advances toward a 13-year-old boy and his 18-year-old brother, according to the documents. The two brothers reported the incident to their parents the following day.
The family also suspected the priest entered the room of two other small children as they slept.
When confronted by the archdiocese, Budzynski blamed his alcoholism and said he would seek treatment. There is no mention in the documents about law enforcement being informed of the abuse.
While church officials initially attributed the alleged or admitted abuse to alcoholism, Budzynski offended again in 1987, after attaining sobriety.
Portrays self as victim
Budzynski portrayed himself as a victim and stated that the various encounters were helpful to the children, and that they wanted them to take place, according to a 1994 evaluation by an unidentified team of psychologists and criminal experts assembled to address a new allegation against him.
"So far there are no cases that fall within the criminal statute of limitations," the team reported. "The District Attorney for Milwaukee County has reviewed the chronology and arrived at this conclusion. Unless there are more recent victims not yet known, the hands of civil authorities are tied."
After an allegation was brought in 1994, Budzynski was encouraged by Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba to retire. Budzynski then moved into a diocesan facility for retired priests, receiving a $2,500 monthly stipend plus health insurance benefits.
At the point of Budzynski's retirement, then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland told him in a letter that it would be important for him not to have unsupervised contact with minors.
He was initially permitted to provide weekend assistance at parishes under the supervision of the pastor and was monitored by archdiocesan officials. He was indefinitely restricted from all ministry in 1995.
But he continued to serve informally at family weddings and other events, later saying he did not want his family to know what was going on.
In an August 1995 letter, Weakland stated he didn't believe Budzynski understood the seriousness of the situation; that Budzynski could be the object of a large number of lawsuits if people came forward with allegations.
The harm, Weakland told Budzynksi, is "greater than you can ever imagine."
Budzynski told Weakland he was perplexed by the sudden and severe decision to keep him from public ministry because he had been obedient and had done everything the church asked of him. He said he was shocked and depressed, and required immediate counseling.
Budzynski noted that he had been participating in intensive psychotherapy for well over 20 years, and had not had a drink in 19 years.
Weakland apologized in another letter for his abruptness, "but it was necessary for me to act consistently and clearly. For your own sake, Dan, please understand that any public ministry on your part exposes you, the priesthood, and the diocese to much negative publicity. The network of victims is well organized and any public ministry becomes the occasion for renewed anger and threats. I wish I could be more 'generous,' but I simply cannot be. The exposure is too great and the possible consequences too devastating."
Beginning in 2002, the number of sexual abuse reports involving Budzynski increased.
In 2003, Dolan asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith at the Vatican, to defrock, or laicize, Budzynski, a recommendation that Pope John Paul II confirmed. Ratzinger would go on to become Pope Benedict XVI.
At about the same time, Dolan ordered Budzynski not to appear in public in clerical attire. He also restricted him from access to the St. Francis Seminary because he was living at Meyer Hall, a diocesan-supported residence for retired priests on the campus.
It was only then that Budzynski stopped portraying himself as a priest.
"Budzynski was so obviously horrible," Dolan later recalled in a deposition, "that I thought, I want this one done and I want it done expeditiously."
Dolan recalled it as "a particularly nauseating case."