Back to: Investigates
June 29, 2017 06:02 PM

Catholic Church Handled Aberdeen Case Of Sexual Harassment Differently

Sioux Falls, SD

A top advisor to Pope Francis and a Vatican Cardinal has been charged with multiple historical sex crimes in his homeland of Australia.

Cardinal George Pell says he's innocent and is on a leave of absence so he can return to Australia to defend himself.

While that case goes back to the 1970s and involves children, the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese has also faced scandals involving priests.

KELOLAND Investigates has been looking into Cover-Up Concerns in the Catholic Church over a case of alleged sexual harassment in Sioux Falls.
We've introduced you to the church worker who came forward to report the sexual harassment to the diocese.  She asked that we conceal her identity.  She told us that she was sexually harassed by her boss, Father Justin Wachs.  

We've reported that after that Father Wachs resigned from his parish and went on medical leave.  That was in 2015.

This case was handled much differently by the diocese than another case of alleged sexual harassment in 2013. 

Father Charles Emezie was a chaplain at an Avera hospital and nursing home in Aberdeen for 18 years.  Emezie was fired after being accused of sexual harassment in September of 2013.

The Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese released a statement at the time saying its investigation found that reports that Emezie sexually harassed adult female staff members were found to be credible. The Diocese also said Emezie's conduct "violated its sexual misconduct policy."

Diocese Chancellor Matt Althoff, who is responsible for handling such complaints, spoke to KELOLAND News at the time Emezie was fired and sent back to his homeland of Nigeria. 

"This demand of the church to protect those people who are entrusted to her ministries, the stakes are high. That's a moral obligation; that's a legal obligation," Chancellor Matt Althoff with the Sioux Falls Diocese said on September 25, 2013. 

While the diocese did not grant us an interview with Althoff for the current allegations we have been investigating, the woman who made the allegations in this case did secretly record her conversations with him when discussing what had happened with Father Wachs. 

"You might remember Bishop, did issue, you know, offered you an apology and acknowledged that he didn't handle that very well," Althoff said in a recorded meeting in April of 2017 to woman who reported sexual harassment.

In this more recent Sioux Falls case, Father Wachs was also sent out of the country, but his new assignment may surprise you.  We continue our investigation into what Father Wachs is doing today, tonight on KELOLAND News at 10.

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