Pedophiliac Ex-Priest Dies in Hospice Care

By Tim Townsend
Post-Dispatch [St. Louis MO]
October 4, 2006

A former Roman Catholic priest and admitted pedophile from Iowa living in St. Louis died last week in a St. Charles hospice.

David Montgomery, a spokesman for the Davenport diocese, said William Wiebler died Friday of heart complications at 78. Montgomery said Wiebler's body would be cremated in St. Louis today and his ashes would be transferred for burial in his hometown of Fort Madison, Iowa. Wiebler did not want a funeral Mass, Montgomery said. Relatives in Iowa did not return a call for comment.

Wiebler exemplified the difficulty the Catholic church has faced in controlling abusive priests whose crimes against minors occurred beyond the statute of limitations and who refuse to submit voluntarily for treatment.

Wiebler was a priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, Iowa, until 1985, when he moved to Mississippi to work as a writer for the Sacred Heart League, a Catholic missionary and social-service society. In the 1990s he moved to Florida to work part time as a cruise-ship chaplain.

In 2002, after he admitted abusing several minors during the 1970s and 1980s, Wiebler entered St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, a facility 30 miles southwest of St. Louis for priests with emotional and chemical problems.

In 2004, Wiebler walked away from the treatment center and moved into a University City apartment about 750 feet from Delmar-Harvard elementary school, and about 1,500 feet from Julia Goldstein preschool.

Neighbors often saw the fat, white-bearded priest - who resembled Santa Claus - on his third-floor back porch, dressed in a flimsy robe, overlooking a parkway used by children walking home from school.

In January last year, 12 new victims in Iowa alleged that Wiebler sexually abused them. Wiebler never was charged with any crime because the allegations against him fell beyond the Iowa statute of limitations for criminal charges.

The Davenport diocese and the Archdiocese of St. Louis said repeatedly during the past two years that their hands were tied, despite numerous efforts to get Wiebler back to the treatment center or back to Iowa.

This year the Davenport diocese received formal notification from Pope Benedict XVI that Wiebler had been laicized, or defrocked.


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