St. Paul Archdiocese Put Accused Priest on Marriage Tribunal, Documents Say
By Emily Gurnon
July 9, 2014
Newly released documents about a local priest disclose that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis placed Joseph Wajda in a top position on the marriage tribunal after it moved him among eight parishes.
Those decisions came after Wajda, who was ordained in 1973, was accused a month into his priesthood of propositioning a boy for sex and continued to be the subject of allegations.
Wajda was accused of making a teenage boy walk around his office naked and masturbate, paying minors for sex, buying expensive presents for teens and taking boys to saunas, according to formerly secret documents released by the archdiocese in a court case.
The documents were made public Wednesday by attorney Jeffrey Anderson. Anderson represents the plaintiff in the case of Doe 1, a lawsuit filed against former priest Thomas Adamson last year.
Now 67 and living in Minneapolis, Wajda was removed from the ministry in 2003. He has repeatedly denied molesting children. The archdiocese has "requested that the Holy See remove him from the clerical state," according to a written statement Wednesday by Vicar General Charles Lachowitzer.
"We offer our assurances that today we handle things differently regarding priests who have been accused of sexually abusing children," Lachowitzer wrote.
A phone number could not be located for Wajda.
Wajda's behavior did not go unnoticed by his fellow priests. Two colleagues at St. Rose of Lima Church in Roseville, where Wajda worked from 1982 to 1986, reported to archdiocese officials that Wajda did little besides celebrating Mass and greeting children at the school.
"His style of work consisted of his going over to the (church) school early in the morning, at recess, at lunch, at afternoon recess, and at dismissal time," the Rev. William J. Kenney wrote in August 1986 to the Rev. Kenneth Pierre, a psychologist. Kenney had gotten the information from priests Patrick Ryan and Dale Korogi, he wrote.
In 1986, Wajda made more than 30 harassing phone calls to the home of one boy with whom he had had a "falling out," according to a 1988 memorandum summarizing an interview with Wajda by archdiocese officials.
In 1987, Wajda was sued by one of his accusers.
Then-Vicar General Kevin McDonough, one of the primary point persons on sexual abuse within the archdiocese, wrote in April 1996 to tribunal member Ron Bowers that Wajda should be made judicial vicar.
McDonough wrote that attorney Anderson made Wajda and other priests "exhibits" in his argument to juries that officials keep alleged abusers in ministry.
"I recognize that this is unfair: Wajda has undergone extensive treatment, he has denied the more offensive charges made against him and has some support in that denial, and he does a fine job in tribunal work," McDonough wrote.
He wondered if Wajda's appointment as vicar would "unnecessarily put the work of the tribunal in a negative light and perhaps even bring more unwelcome attention to him? ... We are not interested in punishing Father Wajda."
Even when out of parish ministry, Wajda continued to raise suspicions.
An attorney for Catholic Eldercare, a Minneapolis nursing home where Wajda's mother lived, wrote to Wajda in May 2002.
Supervisors there had received complaints that Wajda had been wandering around the nursing home and "engaged in questionable contact with some of the young male employees," attorney James Holmes wrote.
Holmes warned Wajda that he would immediately be barred from going anywhere in the nursing home other than his mother's room. He was not to visit outside the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. And he was to have no contact with personnel except as it related to his mother.
In a 10-page, single-spaced letter sent in 2009 to archdiocese official the Very Rev. Paul Counce, Wajda insisted he had been treated unfairly. He "enjoyed a good reputation" as a priest, he said.
"Not only do I want to vindicate my name, I wish to return to some form of ministry," he wrote.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/emilygurnon.