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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hearing in Missouri over parole of Fr. Gary Wolken

Fr. Gary Wolken is up for parole today. The hearing is in Bonne Terre MO.

Here’s a summary of his history, according to BishopAccountability.org:

Convicted 2002 of abuse of boy over a 3 yr period beginning about 1997 when he was 5 yrs old. Sentenced to 15 yrs in prison. Tried for early release in 2006. Had abused another boy 25 yrs ago but not prosecuted. Sent for therapy. He was in therapy when he abused this plaintiff. Civil suit filed 4/04 and settled for $1.675M. Diocese asked Vatican to laicize him.

http://bishop-accountability.org/priestdb/PriestDBbylastName-W.html

CONTACT – Barbara Dorris 862 7688 SNAPdorris@gmail.com, David Clohessy 566 9790

August 15, 2010

Board of Probation and Parole
1511 Christy Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Dear Members of the Parole Board:

Soon, you will have an opportunity to send an important message to people across Missouri. It's a diverse group, made up of hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by priests, ministers, rabbis, nuns, brothers, and bishops. It also includes law enforcement officials who work hard to get predators off the streets, and average citizens who are concerned about the abuse of children. Most important, however, are the scores of wounded men whose childhood innocence was snatched away by one of the St. Louis Catholic Church's most notorious serial child molesters. We refer, of course, to Father Gary Wolken, whose parole you will be considering on Tuesday, August 17. These citizens are hoping, some even praying, that you will wisely deny his request for parole.

During his career in Missouri there were strong suspicions that Wolken was molesting children. Church officials were aware that Wolken had a history of molesting young boys. He seemed to target the most innocent and helpless, preying on his friend’s five year old son.

Wolken, as you know, was sentenced in 2003 after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a minor. He was given 15 years. We are told that, by law, he has now become eligible for parole. As you consider all the nuances of the law and Wolken's sentence, we hope that you will give equal consideration to the sentence imposed on each of his victims. Consider not just the victim he admitted to in this conviction, but to the others we fear are trapped in secrecy and shame.

In SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, we have provided support to many who have been victimized by members of the clergy. Every single one of these was a child betrayed by the ultimate figure of trust--a clergy person, from whom they expected nothing but kindness and God's love. The fallout from their experiences with has been profound. Many suffer a lifetime sentence of psychological turmoil. Some have chronic depression, some fear intimacy, some have problems with other authority figures. Many now struggle with addictive behaviors, learned at a young age to escape the pain, shame and guilt of their assaults. Nearly all have an unending, spiritual restlessness resulting from an early, painful loss of faith.

We realize that Wolken may appear to be contrite and cooperative in the prison setting. Wolken's "good" behavior with other adults in jail is far less significant than his horrific behavior with innocent children while wearing his Roman collar. We strongly believe he is still a dangerous threat to children. We see no reason to think his time in prison has "cured" him of his compulsive need to assault the innocent.

As a parole official, you must realize how important the cooperation of average citizens is in the enforcement of the law. If crime victims and witnesses do not come forward and cooperate with prosecutors, criminals will not be punished, and the innocent will suffer. The entire system is built, in effect, on trust. It's trust that criminals will be caught; trust that the punishment will be appropriate to the deed. It may be an old-fashioned viewpoint, but we believe that the punishment ought to fit the crime. If parole is granted to Gary Wolken, many people--from victims, to police to prosecutors--will feel that their trust in the system has been violated. And violating this trust will inevitably deter other crime victims from speaking up.

Please also think for a moment of the Missouri child who is being sexually abused today, whether by some relative, a neighbor or a priest. How will he or she feel when the youth sees one of our state's most notorious child molesters get out of jail at this early opportunity? Will it encourage this child to come forward and bravely report his own victimization? Certainly not.

At tomorrow's hearing, you will be given an opportunity to make a difference in the fight against child sexual abuse, to bring some peace of mind to the victims of this priest (and others), and to send a message to thousands of concerned citizens. We hope that you will decide to deny Gary Wolken's request for parole.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org