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Alleged Victim Sues Green Bay Diocese for Handling of Priest Abuse

Apr 9, 2003 | Charges of sexual abuse by priests are again swirling around the Green Bay Catholic Diocese. Wednesday, attorneys for a 25-year-old Marshfield man filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a letter written by a priest from prison last year. In the letter, the priest admits molesting 14 boys in the Green Bay area between 1969 and 1988.

Now one of his victims is coming forward. "I was abused by a priest when I was ten years old," David Schauer says.

Up until a few months ago, Schauer was silent. Now after learning more about Father Don Buzakski's past, he's opening up.

"For the past 15 years I've been living a life of suffering," he said. "My relationship with my wife has suffered, there are periods of anger and outbursts that I have."

Schauer and his family shared their story backed by supporters of the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. Schauer says the abuse happened over six weeks when he attended fifth-grade at a Green Bay Catholic school where the priest also served as a counselor. "He would request for me to come out of class to a nurse's room on the first floor of St. Peter and Paul School."

Judith Schauer, his mother, said, "Those two years that we tried to figure out what happened to our son were horrific years that no one should ever have to go through. We knew something happened to him, we didn't know what."

The Schauers eventually found out and went to the diocese. They say church leaders told them Father Buzanowski would no longer be allowed around children, but told them not to say anything.

"I said, 'Can we go to the school board, can I go to my parish priest to talk about this?' and they said, 'Oh no, that wouldn't be a good idea because you yourself could be sued for defamation of character,'" Mrs. Schauer said.

"They knew it was going on and they facilitated it. They moved him from parish to parish. There were times he stayed at a parish less than a year," she said.

The diocese responded Wednesday evening by saying it "has only one allegation against Buzanowski on file, and it is the allegation involving David Schauer." Further, the diocese says the accusation mischaracterizes the diocese's practice of assigning newly ordained priests to a number of parishes "according to parish needs and what was beneficial in the development of a young priest's ministry."

Buzanowski served in the following parishes between 1969 and 1988:

St. Joseph, Green Bay
St. John the Evangelist, Green Bay
St. Jude, Green Bay
St. Patrick, Green Bay
St. Corpus Christi, Sturgeon Bay
St. Louis, Dyckesville
The church suspended Buzanowski in 1990 but he remained a priest and took a job counseling problem youth in Milwaukee County. In 1998, an FBI child pornography sting led to his arrest, 20 months in prison, and his confession.

"He is still a priest, he's still getting paid by Roman Catholic money. Catholics are taking care of this serial rapist while his victims suffer in anguish," said Mr. Schauer.

Schauer says Father Buzanowski's letter to another pastor admitting the abuse is what prompted him to take action. He is asking other victims to come forward. "The prevention of this happening to any other child, it needs to stop," he said.

In its response, the diocese said it paid for Schauer's counseling using interest on diocesan investments "out of pastoral concern for the child." The diocese said it could only respond to the accusations made by SNAP since the diocese has not seen a copy of the Schauers' lawsuit.

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