2 Priests Suspected of Child Abuse Worked in Port Washington: Church Records
By Charles Gorney
July 3, 2013
William Effinger was temporary administrator of St. Peter of Alcantara in 1979, and Siegfried Widera was associate pastor at St. Mary's Congregation in the early 1970s.
Two priests whose names appear on a list of priests removed or restricted from ministry because of substianted allegations of sexual abuse of minors worked in Port Washington parishes in the 1970s, according to records released Monday.
The release, partly motivated by the archdiocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, includes about 6,000 pages of documents — from personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse to depositions of high-ranking archdiocese officials, including former archbishop Timothy Dolan.
Among the names listed are William Effinger, who was temporary administrator of St. Peter of Alcantara in 1979, and Siegfried Widera, who was an associate pastor at St. Mary's Congregation in the early 1970s.
The documents were selected by the abuse survivor attorneys, archdiocese chief of staff Jerry Topczewski told Patch. Though the records were released as part of a bankruptcy agreement, Topczewski stressed that releasing the files can be part of the healing process for abuse survivors.
"Ultimately, we want them to know that the church loves them," Topczewski said. "And the church owes them a debt of gratitude for having the courage to come forward."
But according to press releases from SNAP Wisconsin, the local arm of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the documents have some major implications for the archdiocese.
In one press release, SNAP Wisconsin Director John Pilmaier suggests that archdiocese officials were involved in a “criminal conspiracy” with the practice of re-assigning known offenders to churches and schools after they underwent treatment for pedophilia.
According to the press release, a group of experts with the American Psychological Association compared the practice to “giving an alcoholic a job in a bar.”
Here is what the records have to say about the priests assigned to local churches:
Effinger was appointed temporary administrator at St. Peter of Alcantara for the summer of 1979 after admitting to molesting a boy on Easter Sunday earlier that year. At the time, he was associate pastor at St. Francis de Sales in Lake Geneva.
There were numerous other allegations against Effinger, and he spent some time in treatment for alcoholism. He also worked at Holy Name Parish in Sheboygan, and he was on leave at the time of his death in 1996. There were no allegations against Effinger stemming from his tenure at St. Peter's.
Widera was associate pastor at St. Mary's from 1972 to 1973, during a brief stay that was cut short after criminal charges were filed against him.
Widera pleaded guilty to sexual perversion in 1973, after admitting to "fondling a number of boys' privates and allowing at least 2-3 boys to commit sodomy on him" at St. Mary's.
He was sentenced to three years probation during his ongoing psychotherapy treatment. He later continued to serve at various schools and parishes in Wisconsin and California, and the archdiocese has made numerous settlement payments over the last decade to those accusing Widera of sexual abuse.
After an arrest warrant for Widera was issued in 2002, he committed suicide in Mexico.
Allegations Treated Differently Now
According to Topczewski, "no priest today can serve in ministry if there's a substantiated allegation of sex abuse."
He told Patch that allegations are immediately reported to the police. If the district attorney determines that an allegation cannot be prosecuted, he said the church conducts its own investigation, headed by an independent review board and often facilitated by retired Milwaukee police detectives.