Priest Gets 15 Years for Molesting Young Boy

By William C. Lhotka
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 1, 2003

* The Rev. Gary Wolken admitted sexually abusing the child while baby-sitting for friends.

In sentencing the Rev. Gary Wolken on Friday to 15 years in prison for molesting a young boy over a three-year period, St. Louis County Circuit Judge John F. Kintz had a lot to consider:

* Whether prison time was appropriate for the first Roman Catholic priest to face criminal liability here since a national scandal erupted over molestation charges. Penalties available ranged from probation to life in prison plus 42 years.

* An allegation that as a teenager, Wolken had molested another young boy, and Wolken's statement that he had been molested by a priest when he was a child.

* A 20-year prison recommendation by prosecutor Rob Livergood, who said Wolken was a pedophile needing 24-hour supervision.

* Letters for and against Wolken, and a demonstration outside the courthouse in Clayton by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests to punctuate its call for a tough sentence.

Wolken has admitted sexually abusing the boy, now 10, from August 1997 to July 2000, while baby-sitting for friends in Ballwin. He pleaded guilty Dec. 16 of statutory sodomy and child molestation. The plea did not involve a bargain for a particular sentence.

Wolken was removed last March as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in St. Louis and suspended from the priesthood.

A pre-sentence investigation report from the Board of Probation and Parole reported that Wolken stated that he had been abused by a priest when he was a youngster. It did not make details public.

The prosecution told Judge Kintz that a man had come forward to claim that 22 years ago, when he was 5, Wolken sexually abused him. That would have been long before Wolken, 37, became a priest.

Wolken issued an apology to the victim, the boy's family, his own family and his parishioners. Defense attorney J. Martin Hadican asked for a minimal prison sentence and an intensive treatment program for his client.

Therese Evans, the victim's therapist, read victim impact statements to the court.

In one, the boy's mother said her family was emotionally damaged and that an older brother vows he will never go back to church if Wolken remains a priest.

She said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and insomnia, and is on medication.

The victim's father wrote: "My 10-year-old boy will never be able to remember a time of innocence in his life. It has challenged our faith and belief, not only of the church but of society as well."

In his statement, the victim said he was teased at school, was having trouble adjusting to life, and was getting counseling. And he doesn't have Wolken as a friend any more, he said, because Wolken abused him and betrayed him.

"Judge Kintz, please think hard about your decision," the boy concluded.


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