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  Priest's Accuser Defies Church Secrecy
Diocese Hearing Klubertanz Case

By Pat Schneider
The Capital Times [Wisconsin]
July 21, 2005

Christopher Leonard defied the secrecy of the Catholic Church Wednesday, talking openly about the priest sexual abuse that church officials wanted him to speak of only behind closed doors.

Leonard, 43, said he was sexually abused by the Rev. Kenneth Klubertanz in Janesville in 1975.

Now living in Missouri, Leonard was in Madison to testify at a closed canonical trial by the Diocese of Madison adjudicating accusations of sexual abuse against Klubertanz.

Klubertanz has denied the allegations.

Leonard spoke at a news conference arranged through Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and took the opportunity to advocate for legislation that would provide a one-year window during which victims of clergy sex abuse could bring lawsuits in claims for which the legal deadline for filing has passed.

Young people who are sexually abused are fighting a storm of emotions that make it difficult for them to report their abusers, Leonard said.

"I told no one," he said.

It was not until 2002, at the peak of the scandal over priest abuse, that he came forward.

Sen. Tim Carpenter said that he and fellow Milwaukee Democrat, Rep. David Cullen, are drafting legislation providing a one-year "look back" to allow filing of clergy sex abuse claims past what the statute of limitations allows.

"These individuals need to bring closure to these issues," Carpenter said. "This would allow them there day in court."

While Gov. Jim Doyle has expressed support for such a measure, the Catholic Church, through its lobbying group, Wisconsin Catholic Conference, has pledged to fight it.

Bishop Robert Morlino removed Klubertanz as pastor of St. Patrick's church in Lodi in June 2002, pending investigation, after Klubertanz was accused of sexual misconduct. A second alleged victim later came forward.

Leonard protested Wednesday that the church's failure to inform him of the canonical trial - he said he had learned of it only through another SNAP member - was another example of how the Church victimizes priest sex abuse victims through secrecy.

The Madison diocese has maintained strict secrecy about the proceeding, which is held behind closed doors.

The diocese acknowledged this spring that canonical trials would be held in the cases against Klubertanz and Gerald Vosen, removed as pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Baraboo in February 2004 after accusations of sexual misconduct.

But diocesan spokesmen would reveal little about the proceedings, saying they can not by order of the Vatican.

The diocese invoked that order of secrecy to avoid producing its records about Vosen in a separate civil court case in Rock County.

In that case Vosen, who denies wrongdoing, is suing his accuser.

As described by a diocesan spokesman, the canonical trial is presided over by a panel of judges headed by Morlino. The accused has no right to be present, or to cross-examine witnesses, but is represented by an advocate.

"I'd like to see him in prison," Leonard said of Klubertanz. "But sometimes a civil suit is what you have to do."

Wisconsin case law has erected a constitutional barrier to lawsuits accusing the church of negligence in its oversight of priests, but victim advocates say a state Supreme Court opinion issued last week signals a willingness to revisit and perhaps overturn those decisions.

 
 

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