Peter Isely Comments On: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Story on St. Lawrence Seminary and It's 150th Year

The SNAP - Wisconsin
November 14, 2010

History, Camus once said, Is written by those who make history not those who suffer it or those that have to endure it.

There is the "official" church sponsored history of St. Lawrence. There is much to be said about it. Then there is it's still very much hidden and subterranean history, the history of the rape and sexual assault of generations of students. Perhaps the Capuchin boarding school is not unique in this way, but it is unique in that parts of that terrible history, due to the bravery and courage of some of its survivors, is now known, even if marginalized and mostly discarded for the sake of the official story.

I urge readers to take a few minutes and examine documents about the history of the crimes of St. Lawrence from court ordered cases against them. These once secret documents were ordered for discovery in the civil racketeering case filed against the Capuchins in Wisconsin that is mentioned in the above story. What the story does not explain is why that case had to be dismissed. The WI Supreme Court ruled, on the only decision of its kind in the United States, that sexually abusive clergy and their bishops and religious order provincials could not be brought to civil court because of the first amendment of the US constitution. It had nothing to do with the merit of the cases, which were overwhelming. This ruling shielded the Capuchins in Wisconsin from all corporate liability for covering up child sex abuse by friars. Before that decision, however, several documents and depositions were taken concerning St. Lawrence Capuchins who were notorious and well known pedophiles and the Capuchin authorities who knew about them, including Frs. Jude Hahn, Gale Liefeld, James Buser and others.

I can speak to this personally because I was sexually assaulted by Liefled as a student. I have spoken, over the years through my public advocacy work, to several dozen other students assaulted by him. In a report put together for former archbishop Timothy Dolan for mediation with survivors of the archdiocese, these documents are quoted and summarized and can be read at the archive site. You have to scroll down about two thirds of the document to read the Capuchin documents and the accounts concerning St. Lawrence. The link is:

At least nine friars were sexually molesting youngsters at the seminary. Hahn's case is particularly disturbing. As the documents state, he was assaulting not only St. Lawrence students but, in the words of the Capuchin provincial, "little children," (likely the Capuchin run parish in the village of Mt. Calvary). The Capuchins, with archbishop Weakland, aided and abetted Hahn's flight from justice by concealing (with the Vatican congregation in charge of religious orders) Hahn's crimes and setting up a new life for Hahn in Washington state. In several reports to the Vatican the Capuchin provincial writes that Hahn has committed "felony crimes punishable by prison time in the United States," and that he "will not promise me he will not do this again with small children." Those are the words of the Capuchin provincial. But you won't find it in this story. It's not in the "official" history. Why? The Capuchins, who claim to be honest and transparent, will not release the number of Capuchins they know to have assaulted youngsters, what they did with them, where they are, or how may victim reports they have.

A recent example is former friar Thomas Gardipee, who the Capuchins publically backed in the 1990s' when he was arrested at St. Lawrence and then his case dismissed because of the time on the statute. Gardipee ended up being put secretly by them in a monastery for nearly a decade because the Capuchins knew he was a threat to youngsters. The state of WI had taken away his teacher's license. Did they apologize to students harmed by him and let the public known what they had concluded, as any licensing authority would? No. Gardipee left the Capuchins and was found last year teaching at an exclusive boarding school for children in Hawaii. Now, he has been removed from that post.

Every parent, alumnus, the public, and especially those youngsters those whose lives were destroyed by a Capuchin pedophile and his superior deserves the truth. If the Capuchins, as St. Francis of Assisi would surely demand of them, have truly repented and changed their disastrous practices in earnest, we would have this information. Sadly, we don't. I know of at least two St. Lawrence classmates of mine who were sexually assaulted by Fr. Liefeld that have subsequently taken their lives. One who shot himself under a freeway underpass on Christmas Eve a few years ago. His mother called me and begged me to try to make sure that what happened to him never be forgotten and never happen to another child. And is this not the purpose of history? To not forget? And why? So those like Gardipee and others don't end up teaching your children. That's why.

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