A man who admits molesting 14 boys while serving as a Roman Catholic priest in the Green Bay area before being suspended in 1990 later worked as a counselor for teens with drug and alcohol abuse problems, a newspaper reports.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in Sunday’s edition on the case of Donald Buzanowski, 60, who served as associate pastor or pastor at several Green Bay churches and others in Sturgeon Bay and Dyckesville from his ordination in 1968 until the late 1980s.
Buzanowski later counseled teens in Milwaukee County before being convicted of possessing child pornography in 2000.
His admission about molesting boys didn’t come until last summer, after he wrote the pastor of an East Side Milwaukee Protestant church from prison about returning to the city. The pastor wrote back and asked if he had a history of sexual abuse of children.
“From my past, there is behaviors that might come out,” Buzanowski wrote. “I did molest 14 boys between the ages of 14-17. This happened over the years of 1969-1988.”
Bishop Robert Banks, who has headed the Green Bay Diocese since late 1990, said the church followed its procedures to the letter in the case of Buzanowski, although civil authorities would probably handle it differently if it came to their attention today.
Buzanowski became the subject of investigation in early 1990 after a therapist who treated David Schauer, then 12, reported the alleged abuse. Police were told Schauer was abused during counseling sessions at St. Thomas More, a Catholic grade school in Green Bay, in 1988, when Schauer was 10.
Schauer’s mother, Judith Schauer, said her son’s disposition changed drastically at the time.
“This boy, he lost his smile,” she said. “There was no joy left in him.”
As his problems continued, the family went for counseling and the boy kept a journal, leading his mother to discover an entry in which the boy wrote “my life sank after getting treatment from this so-called person `Father Don.’ I’m so mad at him I could spit, but Jesus would have forgiven him right away. I’m so confused I could cry.”
Police investigated the allegation, but Brown County prosecutors said after consulting an attorney. Police plans to interview Buzanowski fell through when he consulted an attorney and decided against it.
According to the Journal Sentinel report, citing David Schauer’s journal entries, police and other official reports and interviews with more than 50 people involved in the case:
While working for the Milwaukee Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence from 1990-98, Buzanowski’s duties included doing drug and alcohol assessments of children in Milwaukee County Children’s Court.
In 1996, when Buzanowski sought a job as director of religious education with a Milwaukee parish, Green Bay church officials advised “under no circumstances should Buzanowski be in contact with children,” Banks said. The Milwaukee Archdiocese issued a warning about Buzanowski in a newsletter to local Catholic clergy.
In 1998, Buzanowski was in an Internet chat room when he allegedly told an undercover FBI agent he liked to have sex with 14-year-olds. His computer was seized and pornographic images of children were found.
Buzanowski pleaded guilty in May 2000 to possession of child pornography and was sentenced later to 21 months in federal prison and a $100 fine, plus three years of supervised release.
David Schauer, now 25, married and living in Marshfield, said he is still haunted by the abuse, and he worries that others may have been abused because the priest was not prosecuted.
“It just makes me feel so guilty and sick and that I came somewhat close and I wasn’t able to do anything,” he said.
Banks said Buzanowski was originally suspended in 1990 after he failed to return from a one-year leave and declined to return to a “controlled setting” in Green Bay.
The newspaper said Buzanowski, now on parole, lives in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.