Sex Abuse Victim Gets Help for Others
As Part of an Iowa Native's Lawsuit Settlement, the D.m. Diocese Donates Money for Children's Counseling.

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register
August 24, 2007

Des Moines (IA) — A survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a Des Moines Catholic diocese priest has taken action to help children similarly betrayed by trusted adults.

As part of his lawsuit settlement with the Diocese of Des Moines, Henry Wadle required the church to make a charitable contribution to an organization assisting in the fight against the effects of childhood sexual abuse.

This week, Orchard Place announced the establishment of the Orchard Place Endow Iowa Fund for Survivors of Sexual Abuse.

"My situation was not unlike that faced by many school aged children in the '60s and '70s," Wadle said in a letter to Nancy Bobo, vice president of Orchard Place. "I could no longer stand silent while the suffering of these children, now grown men and women, continued. Fortunately, we were able to resolve my matter in a way that will allow me to get the help I need. Somehow, that resolution by itself did not seem adequate. There was a void to be filled."

Wadle, who lives in Alaska, grew up in Lacona and was a member of St. Mary's Catholic parish in Lacona. His abuser was the Rev. Albert Wilwerding, who was assigned from 1969 to 1979 to St. Mary's of Perpetual Help in Rosemount.

The priest asked Wadle and other boys to assist with Mass in the summer and do work around the rectory. On one of those overnight visits, Wadle alleges he was first sexually abused by the priest.

In September 2004, the diocese named Wilwerding as one of three priests against whom there were credible allegations of abuse. Wilwerding agreed to be removed from the priesthood, but he died in September 2004 before the Vatican took action.

Wadle filed a John Doe lawsuit in June 2006 against the Des Moines diocese, charging that it knew Wilwerding was an abuser, moved him from parish to parish, and did not warn parents of the danger.

In January, the diocese paid Wadle $225,000 and wrote a check for $10,000 "to a child protection charity organization" in the name of victims of clergy sex abuse, according to Anne Marie Cox, a diocese spokeswoman.

As a youth, Wadle did not have access to or even know about the possibility of counseling, he said. So as settlement with the diocese neared, he decided to do something to make sure there were no new victims and to "restore, to the degree possible, the trust, joy and confidence stolen from these childhood victims."

After researching treatment options in the Des Moines area, Wadle sent Orchard Place the $10,000 check. He placed no restrictions on its use, except that the money must aid the victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Working with the Des Moines Community Foundation, Orchard Place set up an endowment, which it hopes will grow to provide continuing treatment for young sex abuse survivors.

Wadle's stipulation and the diocese's donation are unique, according to attorneys who have negotiated similar settlements with Iowa's Catholic dioceses.

"To my knowledge, there have been no direct contributions," said Davenport attorney Craig Levien. "Many abuse survivors have privately made contributions to help children from their settlements, but this agreement seems fairly unique."

With the money generated by the endowment, Orchard Place plans to extend counseling and treatment to child abuse victims and parents who have been unable to afford or access programs, Bobo said.

"We hope Mr. Wadle's gift will benefit children into perpetuity," she said.

That is exactly what Wadle hoped would happen, according to Patrick Hopkins, Wadle's attorney.

"It came from his own experience," Hopkins said. "He wants (abuse survivors) to get better care than what he went through as a child. He's a very thoughtful individual, a very kind man."

Religion Editor Shirley Ragsdale can be reached at (515) 284-8208 or


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