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  Sheboygan Priest Admits Taking Graphic Pictures of Boys

Associated Press
June 28, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest who has worked at seven Wisconsin parishes over 40 years admitted he took graphic sexual photos of teenage boys while serving at parishes in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac, the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

A victim told the Milwaukee Archdiocese in May that the Rev. Donald Peters, now 77, fondled him sometime between 1959 and 1960, Sheboygan County Sheriff Loni Koenig said Friday.

She said when questioned, Peters admitted taking pictures of the boy, and later admitted he took pictures of three others, but denied ever fondling any of them.

The sheriff's department received a letter from the archdiocese Monday outlining the victim's allegation that the priest showed him slides of young boys and fondled him two to three times in the basement of the priest's father's home in Lake Ellen. The boy was a 16-year-old high school sophomore at the time, Koenig said.

Peters served at St. Clement's in Sheboygan from 1950-1960, and 1977-1993 and led the Boy Scout troop during those years, she said. He retired in 1993.

"The trauma that (the victim) had before has not gone away," in more than 40 years, Sheboygan County District Attorney Robert Wells said.

Peters cannot be criminally prosecuted for any of the alleged incidents because they are past the statute of limitations, Wells said.

But officials hoped other possible victims might come forward with more recent claims.

The incidents involving three other boys are alleged to have happened while Peters served at St. Patrick's in Fond du Lac from 1962 to 1967 and from 1969 to 1971. Authorities did not know the victims' identities.

Peters declined comment when reached by The Associated Press Friday.

"I'm not going to answer any questions. I've been given that advice from the diocese," he said.

Peters was restricted from public ministry on May 10, when the allegation was deemed credible, said Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski.

Peters retired June 22, 1993, shortly after the Sheboygan County District Attorney's office received an anonymous report of sexual abuse by Peters, Topczewski said. Peters denied the allegation but the archdiocese prohibited him from unsupervised contact with minors, Topczewski said.

The archdiocese has pledged to disclose all allegations of criminal activity by priests to local authorities as part of its zero-tolerance policy, and also plans to release the names of all priests legitimately accused of assault since 1926.

Wells said the archdiocese did the right thing with Peters.

"I am a Catholic, I'll be frank with you, I had some skepticism about whether or not the church really was going to refer allegations to us. They have, and I give them credit for that," he said.

Investigators searched Peters' home Wednesday, seizing a computer and photo slides. Peters said he destroyed the graphic pictures 15 years ago.

Wells said the priest sent a letter of apology to the alleged victim.

Peters also served at St. Mary's in Hales Corners from 1960 to 1962, Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha from 1967 to 1969 and at St. Mary's in Sheboygan Falls, from 1971 to 1977.

In another Sheboygan case, former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland came under fire this spring when court documents showed he deliberately withheld sexual abuse claims against the Rev. William Effinger when he transferred Effinger to Holy Name Parish in Sheboygan in 1979. There, he had daily contact with children at a parochial school.

 
 

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