Diocese Wants Sex Abuse Case Dismissed

By Chris Hubbuch
Lacrosse Tribune
May 7, 2011

Attorneys for the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse have asked a judge to throw out a 2008 sex abuse lawsuit.

The diocese claims the complaint is based on misrepresentation of a witness and accuses the plaintiff's attorney of defrauding the court.

In March, La Crosse County Circuit Judge Scott Horne denied the diocese's previous motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which a Plover, Wis., woman claims diocese officials knew that a priest had a history of molesting children before he abused her in 1971.

In documents filed Friday, attorney James Birnbaum argues that the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates, "has perpetrated a fraud against this Court."

"Its willingness and ability to manufacture a fraud complaint against the Diocese illustrates the dangerousness and inequity of permitting 40-year-old claims to be pursued," he wrote. "Their fraud on this Court not only requires dismissal of the complaint ... but it warrants sanctions against plaintiff's counsel as well."

Birnbaum also requested the court suspend discovery, the process through which each side is allowed to review the other's evidence and interview witnesses, pending a ruling on the judicial fraud motion.

The woman's attorney, Mike Finnegan, said Friday he had not seen the motion and declined to comment before reading it.

According to the complaint, Brenda Varga, 48, met the late Rev. Raymond Bornbach in 1971 when her family attended a wedding at his church. He later visited her, bringing the third grader gifts and taking her to his house, where Varga said he molested her on and off for a year until Bornbach's housekeeper caught him in a bedroom with her.

The diocese removed Bornbach from ministry in 2004 after the diocesan review panel found Varga's allegations credible, though Bornbach's attorney said at the time his client denied abusing her. Bornbach died in 2006.

Varga's suit claims then-Bishop Frederick Freking knew Bornbach had a proclivity for young girls when he was assigned in 1968 to St. Michael's Parish in Hewitt, Wis.

The complaint cites Martin Wolf, a church member who Varga says claimed his wife witnessed Bornbach "touching a little girl inappropriately in the church sacristy" and later reported the incident to the bishop and to nuns at the parish school.

In a sworn affidavit signed Wednesday, Wolf, 78, said it was his mother who saw Bornbach sitting in the sacristy with a girl on his lap and his arms around her waist. Wolf said she never reported any sexually inappropriate contact.

Wolf said in the affidavit he called Freking several times because his mother was upset that Bornbach had yelled at her for being in the church when he didn't expect her to be there. He said he never spoke to the bishop or left a detailed message.


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