Former priest Joseph Wajda groomed young boys for years, church records show

Categories: Religion

joseph_wajda.jpg
From YouTube video taken in 2009 by MN SNAP
Joseph Wajda's house is a mess. Even from the front doorway, I can see stacks of yellow newspapers, unopened mail, and fast-food ketchup packets -- trash on top of trash that's accumulated in the kitchen and rotted over the years.

It's March and I'm working on a profile of another former priest who studied under Wajda back in the '90s. He's 67 now, and mumbles a lot, but eventually invites me inside for an interview. I remove my boots and freeze, having just stepped on soaking wet carpet.


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Wajda looks at me through thick lenses and shrugs. Then he explains, "The ceiling collapsed."

I came to Wajda's door in northeast Minneapolis to ask him about his old pupil, but the questions didn't end there. A couple weeks earlier, internal documents had fallen into my hands suggesting that Wajda was among the weirdest alleged sexual predators to ever serve in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. By the time he was removed from parish life, he had cost the church at least $180,000 in private settlements.

You can see for yourself in new documents made public today by Jeff Anderson's law firm, which is suing the archdiocese. The Wajda file is 3,200 pages long, but only 38 have been selected for online.

"Wajda is one of of those guys who never could control himself," Anderson says, "and notwithstanding his age, he still poses a risk."

It took only one month after Wajda's ordination, in 1973, before the first allegation came in -- that he propositioned a young boy in Crystal, Minnesota.

The documents show that Wajda could be both nice and vindictive. He bought gifts for the boys he liked -- an expensive stereo system here, a pair of water skis there -- but shamed those who had disappointed him. In 1982, he allegedly forced a boy who had refused to take off his swimming suit in a sauna to bend over bare for a "birthday spanking."

The same boy claimed that Wajda made an almost daily habit of forcing him to undress and assume various positions on his office floor to see if he could "get hard." When another priest asked how often Wajda did this, the boy responded, "Hundreds of times."

He went on to say that Wajda rarely touched his naked body, except for "accidental" brushes against the genitals.

Top officials in the archdiocese were aware of these accusations and others, and commented among themselves that there was little reason to doubt the stories.

One priest noted that Wajda, while living at St. Rose of Lima, in 1985, had made harassing phone calls to the family of a boy he was tight with. When the family complained, Wajda had poured "some sticky substance like molasses" on the pew where they sat each Sunday.



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21 comments
Stefanie Megan Brown
Stefanie Megan Brown

Because some churches provide community, self-help, career and volunteer opportunities, resources for the community......I hate when we pretend like church and organized religion are inherently bad. Do some people and parts of and individual churches have a culture problem with sex crimes and child abuse? OF COURSE. But there are also religious organizations who are working hard to end this culture. There are progressive groups founded solely for the purpose of ending human trafficking that have its roots in religion, so it's not as black and white as "religion/church=bad" or "religion/church=good"

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

"In 1991, the archdiocese finally yanked Wajda out of service and, after a couple years in grad school, appointed him a judge in the church's marriage court."  Jesus Christ! 

goback
goback

so who want to go to the basillica block party and support the church this weekend?

Sharon Taylor
Sharon Taylor

So very articulate and heart-felt, Bob. Thank you.

Bob Alberti
Bob Alberti

As I said in a recent letter to the Star Tribune , http://www.startribune.com/opinion/letters/263103461.html?page=2 if you strip the protective "church" and "priest" labels off of the participants, this would be a clear example of obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and child abuse. But because "the church" did it, we treat the perpetrators with kid gloves. Doors need to be kicked down and men marched into vans with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, and if those doors are on rectories and those men are in ecclesiastical robes, it shouldn't make a bit of difference.

Breezy Belle
Breezy Belle

The man has some seriously deep-rooted mental health issues. That the church would make concerted efforts to keep things quiet, all while seeming to want to help the priest with his "inner demons" is sad, and only perpetuated more and more victims of this man's demented desires. The church needs to change its approach to the sexual deviants that find their way into the priesthood - the church needs to acknowledge the crimes (and the victims), and turn the abusers, and the evidence gathered, over to police so these abusers can face justice in the courts of man and society.

Jason A Lee
Jason A Lee

I tend to find my own faith and salvation in life

Jason A Lee
Jason A Lee

Your "hero" . Personally. I never trusted organized religion. Brainwashing.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@CityPages Not sure if you're aware of this, but page two of this article automatically redirects to a VMG login site for "authorized use only."

_Joe_
_Joe_

religion/church=bad, plain and simple.  All of the things you mention can be done just as easily without all the hullabaloo about a magic sky captain.  And they are.  By multiple organizations around the world.  Daily


Churches bring *nothing* to the table.  Zip.  Nada.  All they do is facilitate situations like this and then spend their zillions of dollars grifted from their sheeple to cover it up.

NoMoreGasthof
NoMoreGasthof

@liberal ah yes, black churches (or asian or anything else) that discriminate against same sex couples or people wanting to use birth control are void of any issues, you're right.

OlWillyClinton
OlWillyClinton

@goback No money actually goes to the church. Just refurbishments of the basilica itself. But I agree. Cities 97 really needs to pick a different venue. 

tcraine
tcraine moderator communitymanager

@_Joe_ @CityPages Yep, thanks for the heads up! We just changed the coding, so it should be fixed now. 

goback
goback

@OlWillyClinton @goback if they were not spending money on settlements/anti marriage pamphlets they'd have money for refurbishments. If you show up to this you are supporting them, end of story. 

OlWillyClinton
OlWillyClinton

@goback I'm not going, but I disagree with that sentiment. Not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, and the Catholic Church has anything but a shortage of money.

NoMoreGasthof
NoMoreGasthof

@goback @OlWillyClinton beyond this issue there are a million reasons why you shouldn't support the church. i will never give Cities/Basilica another dollar of my money.

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