Former Priest Convicted of Sex Assault Working As Counselor

By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 17, 2002

The state is investigating why a former priest who was convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault of a teenage boy in 1990 is now licensed as a professional counselor.

Such a conviction would normally bar an applicant from obtaining a counselor's license in Wisconsin, said Jack Zwieg, a prosecuting attorney for the state Department of Regulation and Licensing.

James L. Arimond has been an independent contractor for Psychological & Counseling Services Inc. in Racine but has taken a two-week leave of absence while the licensing issue is resolved, according to a prepared statement issued by owner Jeff Adamczak.

"While we are aware of the matter relating to the 1990 misdemeanor conviction, one of Mr. Arimond's employment guidelines is that he only see adult clients," Adamczak said in the statement.

Arimond did not return a reporter's calls.

Zwieg said he had been unaware that Arimond had been convicted in 1990, until he was contacted by a reporter. Zwieg said the state would begin looking into the matter.

Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for Archbishop Rembert Weakland, said Arimond was defrocked after his conviction.

"Once he was removed from the priesthood, I don't know that anyone here would know what he was doing," Topczewski said. "We would have concerns about him working as a counselor."

Weakland was not available for comment.

Must report convictions

Application forms require that those seeking a license report criminal convictions, including misdemeanors. Zwieg declined to say whether Arimond had reported his conviction.

According to Gale Pizarro, a spokeswoman for the state licensing department, those holding counseling licenses can provide individual or group therapy or can act as a psychotherapist, but usually that is done in a practice where there is also a licensed physician or psychiatrist.

Licensed counselors can work in a variety of settings, including schools, but the state does not have a record of where those who are licensed work. The state maintains a record of complaints filed against therapists. None has been filed against Arimond.

Zwieg said Arimond, now 62, received a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1973 but was not licensed until 1995, two years after the state began licensing counselors.

The charges against Arimond involve a boy who said he was molested by the priest in the late 1980s when he was 15 or 16. The youth did not tell his parents about it until 1989, when he was 18.

Arimond pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced by Circuit Judge Thomas Doherty to 18 months of probation and 45 days in the House of Correction under the work-release program. The prosecutor who handled the case had recommended three years of probation and that Arimond's ministry be restricted to one that would not involve contact with youths.

Former Cudahy pastor

Arimond had been pastor of St. Frederick Catholic Church, 3672 E. Plankinton Ave., Cudahy, when the investigation began in November 1989. In January 1990, Arimond was placed on administrative leave by the church. He was suspended from public sacramental ministry as the result of the charge and the no-contest plea, church officials said at the time.

Arimond worked for a number of years at the Archbishop Cousins Center in St. Francis, the administrative seat of the archdiocese, after he was charged with the sexual assault. His work was not sacramental, church authorities at the time reported.

Arimond's lawyer, Gerald Boyle, said at the time of the conviction that the priest had been "an active alcoholic" who was getting treatment for his drinking problem.

Arimond was well-known in the Milwaukee Archdiocese as an outspoken advocate for tolerance of gays and as the spiritual adviser to Dignity, a ministry within the archdiocese to gays and lesbians. The ministry was frequently the target of conservative Catholics.

Arimond was also a consultant to many public schools in the metropolitan area on the issue of homosexuality and was quoted in a 1987 news report telling Milwaukee-area teachers to discourage jokes about gays because such jokes force gay students to repress their homosexuality.

He also developed a four-week program for the archdiocese in the 1980s titled "Homosexuality and Its Impact on the Family."

An avid bicyclist, Arimond led four young men -- ages 14, 15, 20 and 21 -- on a 4,450-mile cross-country bicycle trip in 1983.

Arimond was one of only three diocesan priests convicted of charges involving sexual misconduct with minors. Two other priests -- one affiliated with a religious order and the other a Madison man who was the spiritual leader of a rogue congregation that followed the Tridentine rite -- were also convicted in the 1990s.

The other two diocesan priests are William Effinger, who died in prison in 1996, three years after he was convicted of an assault of a youth, and Peter Burns, who was sentenced to nine months in jail and 10 years of probation in 1992 for the second-degree sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy.

The Madison priest, Phillip Keyes, also died in 1998 after being convicted in 1993 of the sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy. The other priest is Dennis Pecore, a member of the Salvatorian order who was convicted in 1987 and again in 1993 of assaults on teenage boys.


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