Formerly of Davenport, Lives near St. Louis Area School
By Associated Press
Associated Press, carried by Quad-City Times
September 16, 2004
University City, Mo. (AP) — A priest from Iowa who has admitted abusing several children during the 1970s and 1980s is now living just a few hundred feet from a St. Louis area grade school, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday.
The Rev. William Wiebler, 72, was sent two years ago by the Davenport, Iowa, Diocese to the St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, south of St. Louis, after admitting to the abuse. But he has left that center and is living in an apartment in University City, about 750 feet from Delmar-Harvard elementary school and about 1,500 feet from Julia Goldstein preschool.
Rand Wonio, an attorney for the diocese, said Wiebler “is beyond our power.”
“We implored him to stay,” Wonio said. “We don’t want anyone else to be victimized by this man, but our legal right to force him to do anything is limited.”
The Rev. Peter Lechner, director of St. John Vianney Renewal Center, would not comment on specific priests. But he said, “They can only leave when they get permission from us. But we don’t have the power to actually make them stay, other than if they don’t agree with our policy, they have to go.”
Lechner described the center as a long-term care facility in which some priests stay indefinitely if that is their diocese’s request.
Victoria Gonzalez-Rubio, principal of Delmar-Harvard, had not heard of Wiebler, but said, “You’re always concerned about these things.” She said the school teaches concepts of safety around strangers.
The man who answered the phone at Wiebler’s number Tuesday evening said, “He’s not here.” Asked if the person on the phone was Wiebler, the man said, “He’s gone,” and hung up.
Neighbors described Wiebler to the Post-Dispatch as “quite eccentric,” “overly friendly and enthusiastic” and “bizarre.” Mimi Hubert, Wiebler’s upstairs neighbor, said he often sits dressed in only a thin robe on a back porch swing.
Irene Prior Loftus, chancellor of the Davenport Diocese, said that as soon as the diocese learned Wiebler had left the treatment center, “the first thing we did was to try to get him back into treatment, and when it was clear he wouldn’t do that, we notified the county prosecutor.”
But there is little the prosecutor can do. Wiebler would not have been required to register as a sex offender because he has not been convicted of any crime.
Attorney Patrick Noaker of St. Paul, Minn., has several clients who say they were sexually abused by Wiebler when they were children.
“They (the Davenport diocese) didn’t tell anybody he’d left,” he said. “And they made representations to us that he was (at St. John Vianney center) while they knew he was gone.”
Lechner said it is the responsibility of the diocese and bishop where the priest comes from, not the treatment center, to know a problem priest’s location in the community.
The St. Louis Archdiocese said in a statement Wednesday that it had not heard of Wiebler until Friday, when it received a phone call from the Davenport Diocese.
More details on this story can be found in Friday's editions of the QUAD-CITY TIMES.
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