Priest Doing Time for Sexual Abuse Requests Early Release

By William C. Lhotka
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri]
August 15, 2006

From August 1997 to July 2000, a Roman Catholic priest admitted, he repeatedly sexually abused a boy while he was a baby sitter for the child in Ballwin. The boy was 5 and in kindergarten when the abuse began and 8 when it ended.

Now the priest, the Rev. Gary P. Wolken, 40, is seeking early release from a 15-year prison sentence that a judge has imposed. A parole hearing is scheduled for today at the prison in Bonne Terre where Wolken is incarcerated.

Opposing an early release are family members, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - a victims' group that passed out leaflets in Clayton on Tuesday - and St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch.

Until the Rev. Thomas Graham was sentenced last year to a jury-recommended 20 years in prison for sodomizing a youth in the late 1970s, Wolken's prison sentence was the longest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Wolken also cost the archdiocese $1.675 million. That's what it paid in 2004 to settle a civil suit the boy's family filed against the priest and the archdiocese.

Brian Hauswirth, a Corrections Department spokesman, said Tuesday that the earliest date Wolken can get out of prison is Jan. 23, 2008. The Board of Probation and Parole can set that date, a later date or no date at all. The board can take anywhere from three to eight weeks or longer to render its ruling.

Among factors the parole board is expected to consider, Hauswirth said, are the impact on the victims, Wolken's risk assessment rate, his behavior in prison and his criminal record.

In December 2002, Wolken pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory sodomy and six counts of child molestation. Judge John F. Kintz sentenced him to 15 years in prison on Feb. 28, 2003. Family members are expected to attend today's hearing to oppose early release.

Wolken had been a trusted friend of the Ballwin family. The archdiocese suspended him from his duties as associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in south St. Louis and has since sought through the Vatican his removal from the priesthood.

In a letter opposing early release, furlough or parole, McCulloch called Wolken a dangerous individual. He wrote the letter to Dana D. Thompson, the board's chairman, on July 17.


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