Predator Priest, Whose Strange Case Revealed How Deep the Reach of Hierarchy in Political World, Scheduled for Trial

By Peter Isely
SNAP Wisconsin
November 2, 2010

State of Wisconsin criminal justice officials are to be commended for their persistence in keeping behind bars Fr. Norbert Maday, whose strange case illustrates how deep the reach the catholic hierarchy has in the political world but also, fortunately, how civil and criminal law, when fully and aggressively used, are keeping children safe. (for story on trial date:

Mayday was convicted in the mid 1990s' for bringing grade school children from his Chicago parish to Wisconsin for purposes of sexually assaulting them. At the time, he was also convicted for intimidating a witness, when he threatened to kill a victim's older brother if he testified. Hardly, in other words, a model priest and citizen.

Yet, that did not stop, in a truly bizarre act of political favoritism, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, in 1997, at the personal request of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, from ordering his legal counsel and state corrections officials to arrange to have the body of Maday's mother transported from Chicago, across state lines, to the Fox Valley Correctional Institute so the priest could have a private viewing and service before her burial. State law prohibits imprisoned felons from attending funerals, which can be videotaped. So, Thompson brought the body to Mayday.

Worse, according to secret church documents, Cardinal George continued to use the hierarchy's political influence in Wisconsin, specifically instructing his chief deputy, Fr. Daniel Coughlin, to plot and scheme with the diocese of Green Bay to find ways to continue to influence the Governor's office, specifically to get Maday an early release. Coughlin, a few years later, through George's influence, was appointed the official chaplain for the US Congress, a post he holds today.

Only because civil cases in Illinois forced the court ordered release of Maday's secret church file do we know anything of these machinations by Illinois church officials in Wisconsin . Even more importantly, these same civil cases have brought the evidence of Mayday's history of serial child sex assault, without which Wisconsin officials would not be able to make their case.

Some 22 clergy have been brought back to Wisconsin in recent years through the aggressive use of Wisconsin's "fleeing sex offender law" which allows prosecutors to pursue child molesters like Maday who leave the state with time left on the criminal statute. The statute "freezes" or "tolls" when the offender crosses state line.

The "fleeing sex offender" provision in the state criminal code has been upheld twice in the past three years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both cases involved the conviction and imprisonment of two priests whose crimes were covered up by church officials, Fr. Donald McGuire and Fr. Bruce McArthur. In fact, the evidence prosecutors needed to bring these convictions came from civil cases, one filed in Illinois and the other in South Dakota.

Which is deeply ironic. In 1995 and 1997, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in the only rulings of its kind in the nation, has bared most of these same civil cases in Wisconsin. They did so based on an interpretation of the first amendment which has been rejected by every other state supreme court that has heard the argument across the US. So, the very means of bringing about the result the Wisconsin court now affirms and applauds—criminally prosecuting sex offenders with evidence obtained in civil cases—continues to be denied Wisconsin own victims.

That must change. Fortunately, the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would reform the state's child sex abuse statutes, would effectively do just that.


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