The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Childproof 3: Clergy Sex Abuse Permeates the Culture of the Diocese of Jefferson City




Page 3

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell
In 2004, students victimized by
Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell at
St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary
(STAS) in Hannibal requested
an independent investigation
of the scandal that forced the
closing of the 45-year-old
college prep boarding school
for young boys who aspired to
the priesthood. You never
responded to our appeal nor
did you issue any form of apology
or explanation to O’Connell’s
victims, their parents, or their
loved ones.  Instead you shuttered
the building in May 2002 and sold
the property for a reported $240,000.

Seven years later, on 14 August 2009, you provided $2,000 in ready cash as a political contribution to Stand for Marriage Maine, which supported the repeal of the same-sex marriage statute in the State of Maine during the November election. Flouting election laws, IRS regulations, and Constitutional freedoms seems an insignificant thing in light of the sexual violation children by pedophile priests.  At the same time, your political bent is as revealing as the content of the correspondence that will be disclosed during the publication process of this venture: a description of the lifestyle that you and many of the priests in the Diocese of Jefferson City live behind closed doors.

Predatory Priests: Persons of Interest
Msgr. Gregory L. Higley
The evidence indicates that you are
invulnerable to regret.  One would expect
the 2003 death of the
Rev. Robert Chenoweth due to HIV/AIDS would cause you to consider your effort to politicize the private lives of American citizens.  The dichotomy of civil rights versus the protection of child predators is sobering consideration in relation to the number of gay priests working for you.

Msgr. David D. Cox, whom you promote
as a role model for the priesthood, is a
well-documented example (and forthcoming information will reveal).  One would expect even further restraint considering the experiences of your vicar general,
Msgr. Gregory L. Higley
, during his college career at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and his years of graduate study at the National Seminary of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

And I will mention three others: the Rev. George J. Kramer, who is still known among the clergy as “Marling’s Darling (a reference to Bishop Joseph M. Marling); Msgr. Michael J. Wilbers, your episcopal vicar, who built quite a reputation as Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe’s “Party Boy“; Msgr. Charles H. Patterson, known as “Turquoise Tess (more about his relationship with a deceased seminarian named Douglas T. McDade will follow); and the Rev. Ignacio C. “Nacho Medina, who is known to his Kenrick Seminary classmates as “Natasha or the “Taco Queen, so christened in 1978 by the Rev. John Rybolt, the theology school’s academic dean at that time.

Msgr. David D. Cox, 1984
I recall our first meeting when I was
a student at Kenrick during my own
10-year affiliation with the diocese. 
You showed up on a Friday night for
a small party organized by my good
friend, Mike Campbell. You gave him
a very expensive bottle of Scotch.

You may remember the Rev. Michael A. Campbell, given your position and influence
in St. Louis at the time.  You also may be
aware that Campbell was removed from the priesthood as a result of his predation and sexual involvement with young boys.

In retrospect, I wonder why you visited Kenrick for those weekend parties, considering your duties as secretary to John Cardinal Carberry.  But then other priests liked to hang out at Kenrick in their off hours, too like the Rev. Jack Campbell and the Rev. Gary W. Pool (watch for the story of Bishop James Alan Wilkowski) I should not be surprised at all today.

Politics vs. Children
Rev. Hugh Behan
The Anchor, 1967
Medical and scientific research tells us,
of course, that child molestation cannot
be indexed or connected to sexual
orientation in any way.  Otherwise we
would not have to witness the childhood
sexual abuse of public figures like
MacKenzie Phillips or the corruption
of children by film director Roman
Polanski
. . . or one your own
high-profile priests, the Rev. Hugh F.
Behan
(The Anchor 1967, St. Thomas
yearbook), the former editor of the
Catholic Missourian, who was recruited
to the diocese from Ireland.

When you suspended Behan in January
1999
, you publicly indicated that he was
taking a leave of absence without providing details.  Sister Ethel-Marie Biri, SSND, your chancellor at the time, said that Behan had been through several treatment programs around the country after various allegations.  But he was not removed until an 18-year-old woman reported her sexual assault. He also is known to have molested a 10-year-old girl, a case investigated by the Osage County Sheriff’s Department.

What we expect from the clergy is that you adhere to the social norms of common decency rather than parlay situational ethics to protect child predators. What we expect from the clergy is pro-active resolution and healing; not plausible deniability and disinformation. What we expect from the clergy is recognition of the fact that you are held to a higher standard than perverts.

Jefferson City:  Pedophile Priest Scandal
Depletes Staff by 20 Percent

Research of public records indicates that, at minimum, 20 percent of diocesan priests working in Jefferson City during last 20 years have been identified publicly as pedophiles and/or sexual perpetrators.  And that number, in fact, may be as much as 33 percent or more of total number of your priest roster.

Rev. Frank “Moochie” Westhoff
(1933-2006)
Your effort to minimize O’Connell’s
crimes and the serial predation of
young boys and girls by other priests
affiliated with the diocese is commentary enough on your character as a clergyman. Your unwillingness to disclose the actions of O’Connell and other pedophile priests in the diocese bears all the characteristics of criminal accomplice. One can only wonder at the constant flow of ignominy and what the new year will continue to bring to our attention as the situation in Germany and the role that Benedict XVI has played since his days as Joseph
Cardinal Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich
.

To date we have catalogued the identity of 17 pedophile priests through public forums who have worked for the diocese of Jefferson City in the last 20-odd years. Other child predators have been documented through private means.

We realize this list is incomplete due to your refusal to cooperate with law enforcement and the appropriate reporting agencies. But
we intend to disclose this information in a timely fashion.

This St. Patrick’s Day we would like to discuss the story of one pedophile that you, Bishop McAuliffe, and Bishop O’Connell marketed as a priest of distinction: the Rev. Frank Westhoff.


Rev. Frank “Moochie” Westhoff (left page, top, right; center page, top; and right
page, bottom, left).  Source (left to right):  The Anchor, 1980, p. 34, 1982, The
Voice, Spring 2000, p.3; and The Anchor, 1980, p.42.

Renegade:  The Rev. Frank Westhoff
The employment history of the Rev. Frank Westhoff (1933-2006) is clouded and unclear.  But he is known to have molested at least three youngsters since his ordination on 27 May 1961: “Kelly” of Decatur, Ill., the first-known victim; “Morgan and “Keith, molested in the Jefferson City diocese.

To cover-up his troubled past, Westhoff was transferred from the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., to a boarding school seminary operated by the Crosier Fathers and Brothers in Onamia, Minn.  There he worked in the admissions office (some records indicate the assignment date as 1986-1987).  The notorious Crosiers settled nine civil suits involving seven members of their order and the Minnesota school in 2009 for $1.7 million.

Westhoff’s First-Known Victim
Westhoff’s first-known Illinois victim, Kelly, offers this startling account of his situation:

“I was sexually assaulted by [Westhoff] at the age of
14 in the sacristy of St. Patrick Church, Decatur, Ill.,
in early June, 1966.

“I reported this to Bishop George Lucas in August, 2002
(Westhoff was still working for the Jefferson City
diocese).  I was strongly encouraged by the chairperson
of the Diocesan Review Board to meet with the Board
formally and in person.

Westhoff was transferred from the Crosier’s high school seminary
to Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisc., where
he met O’Connell.  As vocation director for the diocese and a powerful member of the so-called Priest Personnel Board (1977-1987), O’Connell finessed Westhoff’s transfer to the
Jefferson City diocese in about 1986.  Another member of the personnel board at that time was the Rev. John H. Fischer, who was removed in 1993 when the extent of predatory behavior was disclosed in a civil suit filed by a STAS graduate and ordained priest.

And Kelly continues:

“Frank Westhoff was never required to meet with the
Board . . . . The Board accepted my reporting of fact,
but according to Bishop Lucas’s letter to me, ‘the Board
could not reach a consensus as to whether or not sexual
abuse had occurred.’  Westhoff was returned to active
ministry after being placed on administrative leave while
my allegations were investigated.”

George  J. Lucas, archbishop
of Omaha, Neb.,  was bishop
of Springfield, Ill., when
sexual molestation allegations
involving the Rev. Frank
Westhoff were brought to his
attention. 
Lucas protected
Westhoff and allowed him to
transfer back to Springfield
from Jefferson City, Mo.
Bishop Lucas and O’Connell are intimate acquaintances, both professionally and personally.  Lucas is the former rector of Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis and O’Connell recruited Jefferson City seminarians to the graduate school.  Lucas was promoted in 2009 as the archbishop of Omaha, Neb.

One other Westhoff protector is Bishop
Kevin W. Vann
,
who now leads the
diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.  Vann,
as the prefect for priests for Springfield,
had access to all personnel records late
in Westhoff’s career.  He chose to ignore
the allegations and transgressions thereby
volunteering to serve as one of Westhoff’s
last accomplices.  Kevin and I were classmates
at Kenrick.

Westhoff: A Polished Veneer of Respectability
Jefferson City priests and seminarians referred to Westhoff affectionately as Moochie.  And because he had powerful,
well-connected friends, Westhoff was able to move from Springfield to Onamia to Hales Corner to Jefferson City with relative ease:
the veneer of his reputation intact.

The first historical documentation of his affiliation with the diocese to date is a full-page pictorial feature on page 42 of the 1982 St. Thomas Aquinas yearbook, The Anchor.  Bishop McAuliffe attended the seminary’s annual Christmas banquet on 13 December 1982. Westhoff was seated at the head table with McAuliffe and “roasted by O’Connell as a man who possessed
a “bag of wisdom.



The Rev. Joseph W. Starmann identified the Rev. Frank Westhoff as a pedophile
priest this 2006 letter to Sister Ethel-Marie Biri and Bishop John R. Gaydos. He
also reported a new case involving the Rev. John H. Fischer in his attempt to the
victim and his family.
 
The Anchor documentation is supported by the on-line history of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Boonville.  The parish history page identified Westhoff as its associate pastor 1987-1992.  But since Gaydos settled another abuse case involving another associate pastor at that Church (the Rev. Carmine Sita/ Gerald Howard case for $650,000 in 2009) references to Westhoff have been removed from the parish website.  Westhoff’s boss in Boonville was John H. Fischer, who also supervised the assignments of the Rev. Gary W. Pool (removed due to allegations and later the subject of a civil suit) and your private secretary, Msgr. Robert A. Kurwicki.
 
The Official Catholic Directory (OCD) does not reference any Jefferson City assignment for Westhoff until 1987:  “Consultant with Office of Social Concerns. Consequently, this 5-year gap (1982-1987) between the STAS and Boonville records and the OCD portrays Westhoff as a man of weak provenance without portfolio.

Other records indicate these dates in Westhoff’s employment history: Springfield, Ill., Leave of Absence, 1985-1986; Crosier Seminary, Onamia, Minn., 1986-1987; Diocesan Consultant-Office of Social Concerns, Diocese of Jefferson City, 1987; Pastor, Holy Spirit, Centralia, Mo., 1992; Queen of Peace, Ewing, Mo.; and St. Joseph, Palmyra, Mo., 1992; Temporary Newman Chaplain: Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo., 1995-1996; Parochial Administrator, St. Joseph, Louisiana, Mo., and Our Lady Queen of Peace, Clarksville, Mo., 1996-2000.
 
Rev. Dylan Schrader,
a naive boy tricked
by Frank Westhoff.
An Honored Retiree
Although Westhoff retired 2003, neither he
nor his status is referenced in the 2003-2004
Jefferson City Diocesan Directory with other
retired priests.  No forwarding address or
other contact information was published
per custom.

These omissions are significant and they appear
to be deliberate.

Further evidence of collusion and deception is found in the recorded history of St. Thomas.  For example, Page Three of the Spring 2002 issue of The Voice newsletter celebrates Westhoff as an Eucharistic scholar.

But as Kelly notes:

“When I asked Bishop Lucas how this mix of contrary information might be explained and if it did not give a reasonable person reason to wonder, his reply was ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.”

The Voice 2002 issue of the St. Thomas newsletter (along with The Anchor 1982) reveals that the trick was played on the unsuspecting students more than once. Dylan Schrader, who is to be ordained a priest in May, was a STAS junior at the time he wrote this naive observation about Westhoff and his merit as role model for young boys:

“. . . In mid-February, St. Thomas once again celebrated . . . Eucharistic Day. Fr. Westhoff was here as our gracious speaker to talk with us and share some of the meaning behind the Mass. We’re all grateful for Fr. Westhoff being able to come to talk to us . . . [and] . . . know what it’s like to be a priest.”

 
Courageous Priest Exposes Westhoff
Westhoff was finally exposed as a child molester in a letter dated 29 March 2006 by the Rev. Joseph W. Starmann, a courageous Jefferson City priest.  Starmann informed you and your chancellor at the time (Sister Ethel-Marie Biri, SSND) about Morgan, a young boy sexually assaulted by Westhoff (and John H. Fischer). The content of this letter is adamant:

“Fischer, as everyone knows, was one of the most notorious abusers produced by the diocese of Jefferson City; he was involved with O’Connell in the abuse at [St. Thomas Seminary] in Hannibal; and was eventually defrocked after many more cases became public while he was at Boonville. Westhoff, as I understand, was also removed from active ministry because of allegations
of abuse.”

The Rev. John H. Fischer with students at St. Thomas Aquinas
Seminary, Hannibal, Mo.  Fischer’s most recent victim was identified
and reported to Bishop John R. Gaydos in March 2006 by the
Rev. Joseph W. Starmann. I cannot abide the thought of another
young man destroying himself because of things that were done
to him by an evil priest,” Starmann confided to Gaydos.  Source: 
The Anchor, 1980, p. 41.
 
Morgan’s father and mother attempted to help their son through conventional means (his father is a psychologist).  When they were rebuffed by the diocese, Morgan’s grandmother took matters into hand when she asked her friend a retired Jefferson City priest for help.

This champion of survivors of childhood molestation responded immediately.  And offers this cold evaluation of your effort to safeguard pedophile priests rather than their victims:

“I am sure that you do not need to be told how much
monumental damage has already been done to the
Church and its mission by the incessant flow of stories
of clerical abuse.  Further, I am determined to do
whatever I can to help [the victim and his family]
with this situation.  I cannot abide the thought of
another young man destroying himself because of
things that were done to him by an evil priest.
 
“‘Community Reconciliation is the chancery
euphemism for cleaning up all the abuse cases
that have landed in the bishop’s lap, thanks to
the [St. Thomas Seminary] scandal and the dozen
or so priests who have been removed from
active service’ in its wake.

Although you protected Westhoff until the day he died, others took action (see posted documentation).  At least one of your priests brought concrete evidence of this pedophile’s criminal activities to your attention in 2006.  And, yet, you refused to act until he threatened public disclosure through the media.


Next Time: Predatory Priests Exceed 20 Percent of Staff Roster


7 comments:

  1. While there is no doubt there were a number of abusers and victims in the Jeff City Diocese over many years, Frank Westhoff was not a pedophile and was instead a wonderful human being, a faithful priest, and one of the best and most enduring friends I ever knew. To see you throw these fact-free accusations around his name is disgusting. Guilt by association isn't the same as guilt. By that logic anyone who ever knew and liked Anthony O'Connell must be a predator. Or MAYBE they just didn't know how evil the guy was.
    Frank Westhoff was accused, but never guilty, of any abuse. He is resting in Heaven now, free of the stress these baseless accusations caused him in his final years. He is enjoying the rewards of a life used in the cause of social justice and genuine personal evangelism by living as a very human, very humorous, and very holy person of God.
    Check your FACTS, not just your opinions and hearsay, before you blast a good man. There are too many real abusers and victims for you to waste all this time and space on someone so wrongly accused.

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  2. I ALSO NEW FR. FRANK WESTHOFF , FROM 1967 TILL HIS DEATH , I NEW HIM WELL , FROM WHEN I WAS 11 YEARS OLD ,WENT BOWLING WITH HIM , TRAVELED WITH HIM ALL OVER ILLINOIS ,HE MARRIED ME TO MY WIFE OF 30 YEARS & BURIED MY FATHER & MOTHER ,HE WAS NOT A PEDOPHILE , & HE WAS A WONDERFUL PERSON I HAVE TO SONS ,& I WOULD HAVE TRUSTED HIM WITH THEM , ANYTIME ,

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  3. I too knew Frank Westhoff...so are you saying that Kelly is a liar...that Gaydos did not cover up?

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  4. I personally knew Fr. Westhoff firsthand for many years from around the 6th grade to end. I ad traveled with him numerous times including some overnight visits. He was instrumental in my entering the seminary although I left years later. Not once in that time did anything untoward occur. I can't speak for anyone else, but that is my story.

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  5. I knew Westoff from when I attend St. Thomas. I remember some of us went to his rectory. I forget when or why . I think I was a freshman. Anyway he showed us his beer bottle collection. he kind of reminded me of Jonathan Winters (the comic). I just remember feeling creepy as well as a few of us. Wow! Stumbled across this and has brought back memories. Not so good ones. I had read that O'C died last May (2012). I am happy he is dead and if there is a Hell he burns extra hot.

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  6. I met Fr. Westhoff in 1986 at Crosier Seminary and stayed friends until his passing in 2006. I traveled on many trips accross the U.S with him. He was a funny, decent, compassionate human being. In all of the time I spent with him, he never once displayed any innappropriate behaviour to me or others in my presence. When he was accused, over 400 people wrote letters of support regarding his character. While there are many pedophile priests, including several from my high school, I will go to my grave knowing Fr. Westhoff is not one of them. The stuff written about him here is shameful and untrue!

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    Replies
    1. What do you mean by "When he was accused . . ." in your defense of Westhoff. Please tell us more about this incident that caused so much anguish for 400 people.

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