A letter from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was read at Masses at St. Joseph Parish in Josephville March 12-13 to bring awareness to several reports of abuse by Father John Wieberg, pastor there from 1950-61. Father Wieberg died in 1963.
The reports were deemed credible by the archdiocesan Review Board, which met with several individuals who reported that they were sexually abused by Father Wieberg nearly 50 years ago.
“The Review Board has reason to believe that there may be other victims who might come forward now if they knew that others had been abused by this priest,” Archbishop Carlson wrote. “I am making this public announcement to encourage other victims of Father Wieberg to report their abuse to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, so that they may receive help for healing.”
Archbishop Carlson also wrote to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, so the bishop there can notify the parishes in his diocese where Father Wieberg served. The parishes — St. Joseph in Advance, Mo., St. Henry in Charleston and St. Joseph in Arcadia — were part of the archdiocese before the Springfield-Cape Girardeau formed.
Father Wieberg, who was ordained in 1918, also served as assistant pastor of the former Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in North St. Louis, from 1919-25.
Archbishop Carlson stated that even though Father Wieberg cannot respond to the allegations, “I have a moral obligation to others who may have been abused to assist them with their healing.”
Deacon Phil Hengen, director of the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, noted that the 17-member Review Board has a majority who are not archdiocesan employees or clerics. It includes law enforcement and mental health professionals, educators and parents.
“We receive and evaluate reports of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or other archdiocesan employees and make recommendations to the archbishop,” Deacon Hengen said.
The archdiocese was ahead of other dioceses when it formed a committee in 1996. It was renamed in 2002 when the U.S. bishops called for review boards in every diocese.
Deacon Hengen said that the archdiocese “had not made public announcements in the past of substantiated allegations involving a deceased priest because that priest could not respond to the allegations, and giving an accused person a chance to defend himself is an important part of the process. Yet even in this type of a case assistance for healing, primarily payment for counseling, was always provided when the allegations were deemed credible.”
Also, he said, victims always have been encouraged to suggest to others who may have been abused to also come forward and receive assistance.
“Because in this case there were reported to be additional victims from so long ago, we believed that we had an obligation to reach out, and the archbishop agreed with that,” he said.
A representative of the archdiocese and Father Larry Huber, pastor of St. Joseph, were available after Masses to answer questions or concerns.
Archbishop Carlson wrote that Catholics believe in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death. “As archbishop, I am, therefore, committed totally to protecting God’s children and offer my deepest apologies to those who have been abused by clergy.”
To make a report of abuse call Deacon Hengen at (314) 792-7704.