Priest Abuse Victim Has Day of 'Truth'

By Steve Chamraz
The Wtmj
July 1, 2013

[with video]

MILWAUKEE -- Details buried in thousands of pages of once-secret church files do not come as a surprise to John Pilmaier.

Rather, they reinforce the things Pilmaier came to believe about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee after he come forward as a victim of sexual abuse.

“For a faith institution to lie to the people they've hurt the most is really atrocious,” Pilmaier said in an interview Monday evening. “The documents are, really, as close to the truth as we are ever gonna get.”

Pilmaier was one of nearly 20 boys abused by Father David Hanser. As the documents in Hanser’s file show, it was abuse documented by the Archdiocese over decades.

The file also documents how church leaders continued to let Hanser move from position to position -- even after abuse came to light. 

The stories of came in through phone calls and letters. A typewritten letter from a victim of Hanser was sent in 2010.

"His sexual abuse on me occurred over one of the summers,” the victim wrote. “When I was around 11 or 12 years old."

A victim's mother wrote in 2002.

“Our family was also hurt by Dave Hanser," she wrote in longhand on lined paper. "We never questioned this, not having been warned by anyone."

But the file on Hanser shows the Archdiocese did know and could have warned people. Some of the first clues came as early as 1959.

The file includes a letter dated May 19 of that year from Hanser addressed simply to “Your Excellency,” presumably Archbishop William Cousins. The rambling and haphazardly typed two-page correspondence makes vague references and apologies to something Hanser had done to require corrective action.

“I was quite confused and knew not what to do about the ‘events’ that happened,” Hanser wrote. The letter continues, thanking Cousins for his guidance.

“I woke up to the fact that I consulted you expecting to get ‘the magic answer’, ‘the magic pill’ that would remove all the ‘aches and pains’ that occur at one time or another in the life of any priest.”

To John Pilmaier, this is a sign the church knew about Hanser’s troubles very early on.

"What's stunning about this is -- this is before I was born,” he said. “There's just simply no excuse.”


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