'Several' Allege Priest Abused Them 50 Years Ago

By Linda Leicht
The News-Leader
March 22, 2011

Allegations of sexual abuse that reach back decades were recently brought to light by St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Carlson released a statement last week explaining that the Rev. John Wieberg, who died in 1963, was recently accused of abuse.

Carlson also asked Springfield-Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. to announce the allegations. Three of the parishes at which Wieberg served are in the local diocese.

Johnston, responding to the request, released a letter asking any other victims to come forward.

Wieberg, ordained in 1918, served at St. Joseph parish in Advance 1926-30, St. Henry parish in Charleston 1930-48 and St. Joseph parish at Arcadia 1948-50. At the time, the parishes were in the St. Louis Archdiocese; they are now all in the eastern part of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, which was established in 1956.

Johnston requested that the current pastors of St. Henry and St. Joseph in Advance parishes read his March 14 letter at all Masses, which they did. Johnston was out of town and not available for comment Monday.

Wieberg, who was ordained in 1918, also served in parishes in the St. Louis area. His last assignment was in Josephville in St. Charles County through 1961 when he retired. The allegations stemmed from his time at Josephville.

According to Carlson's letter, "several individuals" reported that they were sexually abused by Wieberg nearly 50 years ago. The archdiocesan review board, made up of clergy and lay persons, including law enforcement, mental health professionals, educators and parents, found the allegations to be "serious and credible."

"The Review Board has reason to believe that there may be other victims who might come forward now if they knew that others had been abused by this priest," the archbishop's March 12 statement said. A copy of the statement was also read at Masses at St. Joseph parish in the St. Louis Archdiocese, and a copy was placed in every church bulletin in the archdiocese and reported in the March 16 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review. It was not reported in the latest edition of the local diocesan paper, The Mirror, which was published on March 18.

In a statement released Monday, Johnston said he joined the archbishop in "encouraging any other victims of Father Wieberg to contact the archdiocese so that they may receive help for healing. The diocese maintains its strong commitment and the allocation of resources toward creating and maintaining safe environments."

SNAP statement

An organization that reaches out to victims of clergy sex abuse -- Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP -- issued a statement supporting the archbishop's actions, saying Carlson was "somewhat honest about yet another predator priest."

SNAP's outreach director, Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, called on Johnston to "personally visit the parishes where Wieberg worked and personally beg anyone who may have endured his crimes to get help from independent sources."

Dorris also said Johnston should notify the public, beyond the parishes. She explained that many men and women who were abused as children by clergy are no longer practicing Catholics.

"We hope this disclosure brings some measure of comfort and relief to those hurt by this predator priest," Dorris wrote. "We hope it will inspire others who are suffering in shame, silence and self-blame to step forward and get help."

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