Ex-O.C. priest relocated, prospered
Sigfried Widera, accused of sexual crimes in O.C. and convicted in Milwaukee, lives in Arizona now.

TUCSON -- Father Sigfried Widera, banished from the Diocese of Orange in 1985 following allegations of sexual abuse, disappeared into the Arizona desert and created a new life - one that included golfing at a country club, volunteering at a Catholic hospital and working 50-hour weeks at his brother's business.

His new circle of friends - a minister, other hospital volunteers, his physician and an array of neighbors - knew nothing about his past. Few knew he was a priest, much less a priest facing at least a half-dozen allegations of sexual abuse.

Widera, 61, could not be reached for comment in Arizona. Friends and co-workers there painted a portrait of a simple, hard-working man who last year for Christmas gave his secretary a designer handbag, a ham and a turkey. To them, he is a workaholic who doesn't like to cook, so he eats out a lot or dines at their homes. They praise his prowess on the golf course.

But Widera's life has been far more complex than that, newspaper clippings, property records and interviews show.

On Wednesday, the Diocese of Orange disclosed that it accepted Widera into its ranks in 1976 even though it was aware of his previous sexual problems at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In 1973, Widera was arrested and sentenced to three years' probation on a charge of sexual perversion involving a 14-year-old boy, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel. In Orange County, he faced at least six allegations of sexual abuse with minors. He worked at St. Justin Martyr Church in Anaheim and St. Edward Church in Dana Point.

[ April 18, 2002: Message edited by: Tinfoil ]