A message of hope
GREEN VALLEY – For Bob Schwiderski, the nightmare began again in his 40s when he saw his son dressed in his altar boy attire.
Schwiderski said the memories of being abused by a parish priest in Hector came flooding back. What followed was a long period of self-destructive behavior, promiscuity and binge drinking.
“My wife divorced me, and I don’t blame her a bit,” Schwiderski said. “I didn’t know the negative dynamic, I didn’t have a boundary.”
Schwiderski’s parents discovered their sons’ abuse in 1962 when his older brother told them about being touched by the late Father William J. Marks. They reported this to the trustees of the church.
Marks was subsequently transferred to St. Clotilde in Green Valley and to St. Dionysius in Tyler.
“Three weeks later the bishops dropped Marks on the unsuspecting people of this church,” Schwiderski said. “What the folks around here need to know is the bishop knew Marks was a child molester and dropped him here.”
In 1992, four former altar boys sued the diocese. Schwiderski won a judgement, which he described as not quite adequate to buy a used pickup.
In 1994, New Ulm Bishop Raymond Lucker denied the diocese covered up the alleged crimes in a story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “There is absolutely no indication that we knew of the abuse,” he told the paper then.
At that time, Minnesota had a statute of limitations on child molestation charges, leaving many victims with no legal recourse.
“They closed the courthouse door,” Schwiderski said.
But on May 24 of this year Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law the Minnesota Child Victims Act, effectively removing limitations on civil actions against child sexual abusers and eliminating institutional protections for enabling child abuse.
Schwiderski, now Minnesota director of Support Network for those Abused by Priests, visited Hector, Tyler and Green Valley on Thursday looking for other survivors to reach out to.
“The reason I’m doing this is to introduce the reality of the Minnesota Child Protection Act,” Schwiderski said.
According to Schwiderski, reaction to his inquiries to the church hierarchy has ranged from stonewalling to warmly cooperative.
“One of the guys abused tells me there were upwards of 50 altar boys in his church,” Schwiderski said. “It’s alarming to know that many were constantly in harms way.”
Marks died in 1979 at the age of 71.
“They buried him here in the (Green Valley) cemetery, with honors,” Schwiderski said.