Father Siegfried Widera
Diocese of Orange
Assigned as follows:
- 1968 St. Mary De Nepomuc’s (West Allis, WI)
- 1969-1972 St. Mary, Help of Christians (Slovene), Port Washington, WI)
- 1973 St. Mary’s (Port Washington, WI)
- 1974-1976 St. Andrew’s (Delavan, WI)
- 1977-1981 Other assignments / St. Justin Martyr (Anaheim, CA)
- 1982-1984 St. Edward Church (Dana Point, CA)
- 1985 Immaculate Heart of Mary (Santa Ana, CA)
- 1986 Sick Leave
- 1987-2001 Inactive Leave
Summary of Abuse Allegations against Father Siegfried Widera:
Father Siegfried Widera was ordained a priest in 1967, who served in the Diocese of Orange. According to media reports, in 1973, he was convicted of sexual abuse and was sentenced to three years’ probation. He pleaded guilty to sexual perversion after admitting to sexually abusing an 11 year-old boy, to “fondling a number of boys’ privates and allowing at least 2-3 boys to commit sodomy on him” at St. Mary’s. Father Widera was allowed to continue working and was reassigned to St. Andrew’s in Delavan, Wisconsin. The parishioners of St. Andrew’s were not informed about Father Widera’s conviction or history of sexual abuse.
In June 1976, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was informed by a therapist that a boy under his treatment disclosed that he had been sexually abused by Father Widera. Following this revelation, Father Widera was kept in the parish for at least six weeks while he was still on probation, but after his probation ended, Father Widera was moved to the Diocese of Orange. Church officials knew of his behavior. Shortly after his move to California, he was accused of sexually abusing multiple young boys at St. Pius V in Buena Park, St. Justin Martyr in Anaheim, and St. Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda.
In 1985, someone reported to Orange Chancellor Michael Driscoll that Father Widera was seen molesting four or five boys in a swimming pool. A woman told Chancellor Driscoll that Father Widera inappropriately touched her son when he was tucking the boy into bed.
After he was accused of sexual abuse in Orange County, Father Widera was removed from minstry in September 1985 and sent to Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, for treatment. He was diagnosed with pedophilia. He admitted to molesting at least 10 boys in Orange County. The center’s director tried to find another diocese to take Father Widera, despite his history and diagnosis. He dropped out of the treatment program early and went on to become a businessman in Tucson, Arizona.
When the church’s national sex abuse scandal was brought to light in 2002, more victims came forward and Father Widera was charged with 33 felony counts of sexual abuse in California and 9 counts in Wisconsin. After being indicted, Father Widera fled to Mazatlan, Mexico. He became the subject of a manhunt, and finally in 2003, having his hotel surrounded by law enforcement, Father Widera jumped off a balcony. He had been on the run for more than a year, and authorities considered him one of the most wanted sex-crime fugitives in the Western Hemisphere.
Father Widera was included in a press release issued by the Diocese of Orange in 2004 as a priest accused and removed from ministry. In 2006, three more men came forward alleging Father Widera had sexually abused them while at St. Andrew’s in Delavan, Wisconsin. In total, at least 10 victims have settled civil suits with either the Archdiocese of Milwuakee and/or Diocese of Orange for $17.7million. That was part of a $100 million settlement with other victims—at that time the largest such payout in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. The Orange County Register noted at the time that Father Widera’s victims were among “the most grievously abused.”
After Father Widera’s personnel file was released in July 2013, it was discovered that the Diocese of Orange was aware of his history of sexual abuse but chose to accept him into the Diocese nonetheless.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Orange in California. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in one of California’s Catholic dioceses, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Orange now have legal options due to a temporary change in California law, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in California and nationwide. We can help.