Victim Shares Story of Clergy Sex Abuse at Age 8
By Mike Lowe
July 4, 2013
Over 6,000 pages revealing records of sexual misconduct by priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee were released on July 1st, blacking out all of the victim’s names to protect their identities.
“These files are showing people they were not mislead, they were directly lied to,” says John Pilmaier, one of the victims of the documented abuse.
Pilmaier made a decision to share his story in the hopes that other victims will know they’re not alone.
“One of the things survivors try to do is find out why this happened to them – what circumstances led to their abuse, what church officials knew about it, and what they did or didn’t do,” says Pilmaier.
Pilmaier recalls Associate Pastor David Hanser visiting his classroom when he was just eight-years-old.
“I was a second grade student at St. John Vianney grade school in Brookfield. Fr. David Hanser came to the door, knocked on it and asked for volunteers – if anyone would like to help him with some kind of project,” remembers Pilmaier. “Of course, all the kids raised their hands and, unfortunately, he picked mine.”
Pilmaier continues, “He took me to the rectory and pulled my pants down and fondled me.”
Years of innocence gave way to years of anxiety. Pilmaier says the experience was shattering.
“Shortly after that, I developed a severe stuttering problem that lasted with me through high school, relationship issues, depression and it’s very common for survivors to experience those things,” says Pilmaier.
Although Pilmaier says he has no interest in reading the horrific details in 6,000 pages of documents, he did read the case file of his abuser.
The Archdiocese documented the abuse of almost 20 boys by Hanser over the course of decades, beginning in 1968. Records show that even though the church knew Hanser was a predator, they moved him to seven different parishes.
“They actually enabled it by allowing predators to simply go from one parish to the next, one school to the next, and not letting people know ‘you’ve got a dangerous person in your midst,’” says Pilmaier.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who is viewed as part of the solution to the crisis, says the Catholic Church has moved aggressively to weed out criminals from the priesthood.
“This is a new day for the Archdiocese and for southeastern Wisconsin,” says Listecki. “I can say as a Bishop, there’s no one in active ministry today who has substantiated, credible accusations against them.”
Fr. Hanser retired in 2002 with a pension and health benefits from the Archdiocese. He will never face justice for his actions. Pilmaier says laws need to be changed to protect victims and not predators.
“He should be behind bars. He’s living a comfortable life out in Waukesha county. He was able to elude justice because of the statute of limitations – and that’s something these documents should really prompt parents to think about is our statute of limitations need to be reformed and the limitations for child sexual abuse need to be abolished because we can’t put it on the kids. The adults have to correct this and make sure the court house doors are open for them,” says Pilmaier.
In 2004, then Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote to the Vatican requesting Hanser’s removal from the priesthood. Hanser was eventually defrocked and removed.