Suspended Priest Is Charged with Molesting Boy He Baby-Sat
Was Associate Pastor at Parish in St. Louis

By Heather Ratcliffe
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 5, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest suspended from his church in St. Louis in March was arrested and charged Tuesday with molesting a 10-year-old boy who was a family friend.

The Rev. Gary P. Wolken, 36, who served as associate pastor at Our Lady of the Sorrows in St. Louis, was charged with two counts of statutory sodomy and six counts of child molestation. All are felonies.

Prosecutors said the abuse began in August 1997 when the child was a kindergartner. The abuse did not involve a parishioner or a student at a Catholic church, police said.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Wolken often baby-sat the child at the victim's home in Ballwin. He was a close friend of the family.

"Truly this is just a horrible betrayal of trust," McCulloch said.

Wolken admitted the abuse to police, according to court documents.

McCulloch said the St. Louis Archdiocese first learned about the allegations this year. The archdiocese placed Wolken on leave in March. Prosecutors said the church has cooperated with police.

"They are the ones who brought the allegations to the authorities in the first place," McCulloch said.

Archbishop Justin Rigali offered apologies to the victim and his family Tuesday.

"Yet again I reiterate that the protection of our children must be our highest priority," Rigali said in a statement. "We will continue to do everything possible so that the grave evil of sexual abuse of minors is rooted out of society once and for all."

Wolken, of the 5000 block of Rhodes Avenue in St. Louis, turned himself in at the Ballwin police station Tuesday morning. He was released from the St. Louis County jail on a $15,000 bond.

Wolken wrote a letter explaining his suspension to his parish March 25, when he was removed.

The pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows, the Rev. Michael Campbell, also was removed March 2 as a result of an archdiocesan review of 13-year-old allegations of past sexual abuse.

Wolken is the second priest charged with molesting a child in St. Louis County since the issue came to the forefront of public debate this year.

The Rev. Bryan Kuchar, 36, admitted to police that he sexually abused a boy in 1995 when he was associate pastor at Assumption Church in Mattese in south St. Louis County.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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