Milwaukee Priest Jailed for Sexual Contact Served at St. Mark's Parish in Phoenix in 1970s
By Anne Ryman
May 17, 2018
A Wisconsin priest with a long history of complaints involving children, and who was sentenced to jail last year on sex charges, was assigned to the Phoenix Diocese in the early 1970s.
The Diocese of Phoenix told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday evening that it recently became aware that Robert Raymond Marsicek, a priest of the Milwaukee-based Salvatorian religious order, is listed as having served at St. Mark’s Parish in south Phoenix in 1974.
"According to our records, there have been no reported incidents or allegations against Father Marsicek in the Diocese of Phoenix," the Diocese said in a statement.
"Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or who may have information concerning this situation is encouraged to call a local law enforcement agency."
Marsicek, 76, was sentenced to one year in jail in December after pleading guilty to three counts of misdemeanor sexual contact with a girl. The incidents occurred at a Catholic school in Wauwatosa between 2007 and 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which covered the case extensively.
Marsicek originally faced three felony counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. But he entered an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor that involves sexual touching.
The girl told police the priest, known as "Father Bob," had grabbed her buttocks, touched her breast and reached under her jumper to "pat" her vagina on different occasions, according to the criminal complaint.
At his sentencing, the girl, now 16, told the judge the priest repeatedly molested her, starting in the first grade.
"I would love to see him spend the rest of his life in jail," she said in court. "I was told that he wouldn't because he's 'too old.' But why should I care about his age when he didn't care about mine?
"I will always have what he did to me in the back of my mind," she said.
Marsicek was removed from ministry in 2013 at St. Pius X Catholic Parish in Wauwatosa, Mother of Good Counsel Parish and School in Milwaukee, and Wauwatosa Catholic School after a teacher at Wauwatosa Catholic reported that he inappropriately touched a young girl.
Marsicek said he was just being affectionate and that any inappropriate touching was inadvertent.
Wauwatosa police sought criminal charges. But the Milwaukee County district attorney's office declined, saying it could not prove intent. Wauwatosa police investigated a second report in 2013 that also was not charged.
Those investigations were unrelated to the most recent case in 2017 where Marsicek was sentenced.
Documents obtained by police during one of the 2013 investigations show Marsicek had a history of questionable contact with children during his 12 years at St. Pius X. He had been counseled repeatedly by the archdiocese and his religious order, the Society of the Divine Savior, or Salvatorians, to stop touching children.
One mother complained in 2011 that she and her husband were astonished at how often the priest was seen "nuzzling" up to young children, including theirs.
At the time, church officials dismissed Marsicek's incidents with children as "boundary issues."
When the 2013 allegations emerged, both the Milwaukee archdiocese and Salvatorians had known since May 2012 that Marsicek was under investigation in Sacramento, Calif., on allegations of sexual abuse of a minor in the 1980s to 1990s. They allowed him to remain in ministry for 10 months while those claims were investigated. No charges resulted from the Sacramento investigation.
Marsicek was ordained in 1968 and assigned to parishes in St. Nazianz, Wis., then Phoenix, followed by Huntsville, Alabama and Orangevale, California. He moved to Wisconsin in 2001, according to BishopAccountability.org, an organization that tracks priests and sex-abuse scandals.
The records don't say how long Marsicek was in Phoenix but indicate he was assigned here in 1974 and moved to Alabama sometime in 1975.
Marsicek is the third priest assigned to St. Mark's Catholic Church who has been indicted or convicted of child sexual abuse, said Phoenix attorney Robert Pastor, who is representing a victim of another priest in a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Church.
“Father Robert Marsicek, Father Joseph Henn, and Father Dennis Pecore are Catholic priests from the same religious order in Wisconsin all of whom have been indicted or convicted for child sexual abuse," he said. "This is a clear pattern of shuffling pedophile priests to unsuspecting communities so that the Catholic Church can avoid scandal."
Peter Isely, a founding member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said information about Marsicek that has emerged paints a picture of a man who was allowed to be transferred from one church to another.
The 2017 charges were plea bargained from a felony to a misdemeanor, he said, resulting in just a year in jail.
"He's in for a full year and then he’ll be out again," Isely said.
In the statement issued Wednesday, the Diocese of Phoenix said it is dedicated to providing a safe environment.
"We continue to pray for all those who have been harmed by childhood abuse and will remain vigilant to protect the dignity of every person. For additional information about support services for those who have been abused, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (602) 354-2396 or at dphx.org/youth-protection," the statement said.
Reporters Ashley Luthern and Annysa Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Anne Ryman at 602-444-8072 or firstname.lastname@example.org