2 More Priests to Be Removed
Archdiocese Aiming to Comply with Abuse Policy
By Tom Heinen
Journal Sentinel Online
Auguast 20, 2002
Two priests with histories of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors are being removed from parishes in Beaver Dam and Fond du Lac,the Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced Tuesday.
The moves are aimed at bringing the archdiocese into compliance with a zero-tolerance sexual-abuse policy that U.S. bishops adopted in June.
An announcement by the archdiocese Tuesday noted that the priests being removed will be restricted from any future active ministry, along with a third priest who had been helping out at unspecified parishes on weekends without a regular ministry assignment.
Those revelations came barely three days after another pastor told his congregation at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Whitewater that he had been ordered by the archdiocese to leave all priestly ministry because of what he termed "inappropriate behavior" with a 17-year-old boy 19 years ago.
The actions, which will take effect Monday, mean that no priest "with a substantiated incident of sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual contact with a minor" will be serving in any position of active ministry in the archdiocese, according to the announcement issued by archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski.
However, Peter Isely, a Milwaukee man who has been a spokesman for a national group of victims of sexual abuse by priests, disagreed with that statement.
"That does not include religious order priests, of which there is a large number in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in public ministry in parishes, schools and hospitals," Isely said.
Although religious orders need permission from a local bishop for their priests to function in a diocese, they have their own policies and procedures. When leaders of major men's religious orders met earlier this month in Philadelphia, they adopted a voluntary policy that balked at removing offenders from all priestly ministry.
The policy adopted in Dallas two months ago by members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also is voluntary until it is approved by the Vatican. Some dioceses have been slow to implement it, and recent news reports indicate that the Vatican, concerned about priests' rights, may not accept all of its provisions.
Citing Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba by name, Isely also expressed his long-standing criticism that the church is not removing bishops who knowingly left abusive priests in active ministry over the years. And he also was dissatisfied that the archdiocese has not yet fulfilled a promise to make public the names of all retired or otherwise inactive priests with past credible allegations of sexual abuse.
The decisions in the four cases that were formally announced Tuesday had been postponed for weeks while Sklba, acting administrator of the 10-county archdiocese, consulted with a nine-priest, archdiocesan advisory board known as the College of Consultors. Sklba ordered the removals after meeting with that panel last week.
Sklba became acting administrator after Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland retired amid revelations that the archdiocese had paid a $450,000 settlement to a man who accused him of sexual assault years ago during an adult relationship. Auxiliary Bishop Timothy M. Dolan of St. Louis will be installed as Weakland's successor Aug. 28.
The announcements Tuesday resolved the last of six credible cases against priests in active ministry, the existence of which the archdiocese first acknowledged in late March. The priest who announced his departure last weekend in Whitewater, Father Jim Godin, was thought at the time to be one of the original six. However, he was identified on Tuesday as a seventh priest, whose case arose in May during a review of archdiocesan files.
The priests identified in Tuesday's announcement are:
Other sources and records previously had shown that Wagner was accused of supplying youths with alcohol and, on one of those occasions, making sexual advances to a 15-year-old boy in the rectory of St. Jerome Church in Oconomowoc in the 1980s.
The other three priests who were among the original six, and who had either resigned or been removed from active ministry since March, are: Father Michael Krejci, who headed St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Eagle; Father David Hanser, who was accused of abusing boys in Waukesha County; and Father Thomas Trepanier, who resigned from St. Dominic in Brookfield in May.
The archdiocese still must deal with several other priests in active ministry who have less credible allegations or vague suspicions in their records.
Former Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Fiorenza has been appointed by Sklba as an independent adjudicator to establish procedures for dealing with such old cases and with new cases in which guilt or innocence are not determined by civil authorities. Fiorenza will make judgments, but archdiocesan officials will decide whether the behavior of such accused priests constitutes sexual abuse and what to do with the priests.
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