Sex Abuse Victims Want Superior Bishop to Investigate Eagle River Church
Choir Director Was Convicted of Sexual Assault in Dane County, Hired Anyway
Predator's Wife Says Church Knew of Abuse History
Sentenced Monday in Vilas County to 17 Years for Assaulting Girl in Parish Choir

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
August 19, 2008

-SNAP Letter to Bishop Christensen of Superior, WI posted below release--

Eagle River, Wisconsin, August 19, 2002 - The nation's largest self help organization of victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy are calling on the Catholic Bishop of the Superior, Wisconsin diocese to explain how a convicted child molester could have been hired to help staff a Catholic parish and then go on to sexually assault a girl who was a member of the choir.

On Monday, in Vilas County, "Ziggy" Stardust, who co-wrote a popular church song performed before Pope Benedict XVI at the World Youth Day last month in Sidney, Australia, was convicted to 17 years in prison for sexually assaulting a girl whose family belonged to St. Peter the Fisherman Parish in Eagle River.

Stardust was hired as the church's choir director in 2000 although he had a previous sex assault conviction in Dane County. He was arrested in 2005 for five felony counts of child enticement.

Stardust's wife, Merry, at the sentencing yesterday, told Judge Mark A. Mangerson that the church knew of her husband's "troubled" past when they hired him.

Court testimony also included adults who were sexually assaulted as children by Stardust in Indiana at least thirty years ago.

In a letter emailed to Bishop Peter Christensen Tuesday, SNAP is asking Christensen to "investigate and discipline" any member of the Saint Peter's parish staff, including it's pastor, who participated in hiring Stardust knowing he had a history of sex crimes. They are also asking Christensen to assure the public that every parish in his diocese is complying with a mandatory child sex abuse policy adopted in 2002 by the American's Catholic bishops ordering background checks of all employees who worked with or have access to children.

Victims are concerned that Christensen has not reached out to those harmed by Stardust and has yet to make public his employment history in the Catholic Church.

The Vilas County DA called Stardust one of the "most dangerous individuals" he ever prosecuted.


Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259

Bob Schwiderski, Minnesota SNAP Director, 952.471.3422

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest self help organization of clergy sexual abuse survivors, founded in 1989 with over 8,000 members in 53 chapters nationwide. Visit SNAP on the web at

SNAP 8-19-2008 - letter to Bishop Peter Christensen of Superior August 18, 2008

To: Peter Christensen, Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin From: Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director Re: St. Peter the Fisherman Parish and the hiring of child sex offender Ziegfield Stardust Bishop Christensen:

We are a self help organization of childhood victims of sexual abuse by clergy and other religious leaders and are the nation's oldest and largest such group, with over 8,000 members in 62 chapters.

Yesterday, in Vilas County, Wisconsin, Judge Mark A. Mangerson sentenced the choir director of St. Peter the Fisherman Parish in Eagle River to 17 years in prison having been found guilty of five felony counts of enticing a child.

The sexual abuse crisis which has engulfed the church over the past several years has led to the arrest and conviction of not only ordained clergy but to Catholic school teachers and parish employees like Stardust. Stardust, by all accounts a gifted musician and charismatic teacher, was called by Vilas County authorities one of the most "dangerous" men they have ever prosecuted.

What is most distressing about this case, however, is that Stardust had already been convicted of child sex abuse in Dane County as far back as 1981 and was hired as the choir director at St. Peter's anyway. Yesterday in open court, Stardust's wife, Merry, told the judge that, indeed, the church was well aware of her husband's past and allowed him years of unimpeded and unsupervised access to parish children. Other direct testimony in court revealed that Stardust was already assaulting children in Indiana thirty years ago. To make matters worse, in an interview in 2002 with the Superior Catholic Herald, Stardust talks about various parish sponsored "mission" trips to work with children in Honduras and Haiti.

By the time of the Catholic Herald interview, the American Bishops had already adopted the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Young Children which specifically states in Article 13 that all parishes will conduct background checks with law enforcement and other pertinent organizations to discover any employee who has a known history of harming children.

Clearly, Stardust should never have been hired. Minimally, his past sex crimes should have been discovered during the five years he worked at St. Peter's before his arrest. That later fact-easily accomplished through a simple internet search--lends the claim offered in court that church leaders knew Stardust was a sex offender a great deal of veracity.

We urged your predecessor, Raphael Fliss, on many occasions, to exercise transparency with the public by disclosing the names, records, employment histories and locations of all clergy, religious and church workers known by the diocese or its pastors to have abused children and minors. He declined to do so, much to our distress, even when they involved such terrible circumstances as the double homicide by priest pedophile, Ryan Erickson. That case, more than any other in recent times, should have led to an emphatic reversal of usual hierarchical practices and inaugurated a new era of openness and cooperation to root out child sex crimes in your diocese.

Instead, we fear that offenders like Stardust can still find in the church a haven and sanctuary from past child sex crimes and an irresistible opportunity to commit new ones.

That is why we are asking you to quickly investigate and discipline any pastor, priest or church leader who hired Stardust and for five long years failed to protect children, like the brave victim who finally brought him to justice this week.


Peter Isely

SNAP Midwest Director

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests


Mary Guentner

SNAP Wisconsin Coordinator

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests



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