Priest Sentenced for Molestation
Court Orders Jail Time, Counseling, Restitution and 20 Years' Probation

By David Paulsen
Wausau Daily Herald [Wausau WI]
February 26, 2002

A former Wausau priest will spend a year and a half in jail for molesting and exposing himself to teenage boys under his care.

The Rev. Timothy E. Svea, 39, pleaded guilty Monday in Marathon County Circuit Court to second-degree sexual assault of a child under age 16 and five counts of exposing himself to a child.

Svea also pleaded guilty to Monroe County charges of false imprisonment and exposing himself to a child. The charges from the two counties were consolidated and filed in Marathon County on Friday. The victims were boys as young as 15 years old who had volunteered for mission work with the Institute of Christ the King, a nondiocesan international religious group based in Florence, Italy.

The mother of one of Svea's victims told the court how these crimes have harmed her son, her family and the other victims and families, but she said that with repentance, forgiveness comes in time.

"It will be hard for (Svea) because there are so many victims, but God's mercy has no bounds for the contrite," she said.

The abuse began in 1998 while Svea headed the mission group in St. Mary's Ridge in Monroe County and continued when Svea and the volunteers moved the group to St. Mary Catholic Church in Wausau in April 1999, according to court records.

The Institute of Christ the King granted Svea's December 2000 request for a leave of absence and suspended him from all priestly duties after the allegations surfaced the next March.

Since then, the institute has offered pastoral care to the victims and cooperated with police in their investigation, Monsignor Michael R. Schmitz said in a press release.

"We extend our regret and sympathy to those who have suffered from these crimes," Schmitz said. The institute did not know about the offenses until parents contacted Wausau police.

After spending the past 11 months in treatment at Saint Luke Institute near Washington, D.C., a downcast Svea appeared before Circuit Court Judge Patrick Brady to express his sorrow for what he had done.

"I've hurt these young men and I've hurt their families. I've hurt the church and I've offended my God," Svea said.

While acknowledging that Svea has shown remorse for the crimes and cooperated with authorities, Marathon County District Attorney Jill Falstad also detailed how Svea had abused his position as a religious leader to the extent of giving the boys sleeping pills and alcohol.

"Father Svea's crimes quite simply are reprehensible," Falstad said.

In addition to the jail time, Svea was sentenced to probation for 20 years and was ordered to pay restitution and receive counseling.


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