Priest Leaves Active Ministry after Sexual Abuse Allegation Is Substantiated
Archdiocesan Policies Ensured Removal from Active Ministry
By Kathleen Hohl
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
February 2, 2004
Reverend Michael C. Benham, pastor at St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn, has been removed from priestly ministry due to a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. As soon as the allegation - - the first ever against the priest - - was received, the matter was turned over to law enforcement officials, who received full cooperation from the archdiocese. Once the allegation was substantiated, the priest was removed from ministry. Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba visited St. Patrick Parish over the weekend to personally inform the parishioners.
The steps taken by the archdiocese follow archdiocesan policies, which are consistent with those established by the implementation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Once an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a clergy member is substantiated, the clergy member is no longer allowed to function in active ministry.
"The sexual abuse of a minor is a crime and a sin we take very seriously," said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. "Our first priority is to care for the victim-survivor and ensure that no priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor ever serves again in active ministry.
"This case - - however sad - - is an indication that the system we have in place to handle allegations of sexual abuse of a minor is working. It is at least reassuring to know that the policies in place are effective. Still, my heart breaks for the victim and family, for the people of St. Patrick's, for all our priests and people."
Reverend Paul Daniels, a retired diocesan priest, will serve as temporary administrator of St. Patrick Parish effective Monday, February 2. Archdiocesan central office staff members will work closely with Father Daniels and the parish pastoral staff to ensure that the sacramental and pastoral needs of the parish community are met.
Father Benham served as pastor at St. Patrick Parish since June 20, 2000. Prior to that, he was pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Burlington (1988-2000); a faculty member at St. Joseph High School, Kenosha (1982-88); and associate pastor at St. John Nepomuk Parish, Racine (1976-82). He was born on October 23, 1950, and was ordained on May 28, 1976 by Archbishop William E. Cousins.
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