Green Bay Diocese Names 48th Priest Determined to Have Sexually Abused a Minor
By Haley BeMiller
June 4, 2019
Bishop.jpg Green Bay Bishop David L. Ricken listens as Chancellor Tammy Basten, left, discusses the release of the names on Thursday of 46 priests confirmed to hve abused minors at the Diocese of Green Bay offices in Allouez. (Photo: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin/@jmatthe79)
The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay last month identified another priest who molested a child, amending its list of known abusers with little notice to the general public.
The diocese on May 23 added Steven Scherer to the list of priests who sexually abused minors over the past century. Scherer, who died in 1999, was determined by the diocese to have committed a single instance of abuse around 1980 or 1981. The allegation surfaced after his death.
Scherer served at St. Jude Catholic Church in Green Bay at the time of the abuse, according to the diocese. He also worked at Appleton's St. Elizabeth Hospital, now known as Ascension St. Elizabeth Hospital, from 1984 to 1993.
After years of public pressure, the Green Bay diocese in January released the names of 46 priests with "substantiated" allegations of sexual abuse of minors, 15 of whom are still alive. Officials modified the initial disclosure list in April with the name of a 47th priest, along with additional incidents of abuse by previously named clergy.
Diocese spokeswoman Sarah Gietman said updates to the disclosure list are made as more survivors come forward.
Scherer brings the total of abusive priests identified by the diocese to 48. The diocese updated its website to include Scherer's name on May 23 and published the information in The Compass, the diocese's official newspaper, Gietman said.
However, the diocese made no additional efforts to inform the greater public.
"One of our primary means of diocesan communication is The Compass," Gietman said.
Green Bay's investigation followed a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury last year identifying hundreds of priests who are believed to have molested at least 1,000 children.
However, the disclosure came after years of criticism by advocates arguing for more transparency. Former Bishop David Zubik released a report in 2004 stating 35 priests and deacons had been accused of abuse between 1950 and 2003. He refused to release their names and, two years later, directed the diocese to destroy personnel records of priests who had been dead for at least a year.
And questions still remain. The definition of a substantiated allegation, for example, has been defined on the diocese's website as one in which there's "reasonable cause to suspect that the sexual abuse of a minor has occurred."
"This is comprised, in part, of the certainty of the accuser that the abuse took place, that the allegations (are) internally consistent regarding a time, place and date, and that other facts surrounding the accuser’s claims appear to be accurate," the website says.
Green Bay's list also doesn't include independent orders like the Norbertines. Survivor advocates reject Bishop David Ricken's contention that Norbertine priests cannot be included in the diocese's list because he doesn't have jurisdiction over them..
St. Norbert Abbey has indicated it hired an independent agency to conduct a review of sexual assault allegations. It's unclear if or when that report would be made public.
Any further additions to Green Bay's disclosure list will be made at the recommendation of an independent review board and after notifying the district attorney in the county of the alleged abuse, according to the diocese.