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  Two Priests Face Accusations: Conrad Resigns after Admitting to Relationship with Minor Dcbdc Dc/bdc

By Charlie Mathews
Herald Times Reporter
September 17, 2002

CLARKS MILLS -- Kathy Berres wants Father John Conrad to know exactly how she and her family feel.

"We love you Fr. John" is the message on the marquee outside Immaculate Conception of Mary Catholic Church, which was rocked Sunday by the resignation of Conrad, who resigned after admitting he had a sexual relationship with a minor more than 25 years ago.

Berres with her husband, Ray, and children, Daniel and Zachory, posted the message Sunday afternoon.

A priest at the church since 1979, Conrad, 65, can no longer "exercise any public priestly ministry," according to a statement from the Green Bay Catholic Diocese.

With the diocese adhering to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," adopted in June, it is one strike and out for Conrad.

That strikes Berres, fellow parishioner Norbert Pritzl and Father Jeremiah Cullinane as unforgiving and wrong.

Conrad read his resignation letter to the parish at Sunday's 10 a.m. Mass. He did not mention his imminent departure at Saturday's 4 p.m. or Sunday's 8 a.m. masses.

"He wanted the focus on God," Berres said.

He made his announcement just before the closing blessing, Berres said. Those attending the Mass stood and applauded, with many hugs and tears, as he stayed at the front of the church, she said.

"Our church is about forgiveness," Berres said. "People do things that are wrong, change and dedicate their life to doing good." She met Conrad when she attended Roncalli High School and he taught religion there.

Pritzl said Conrad should be forgiven and one single incident shouldn't be enough to force him to resign.

But diocesan spokesman Tony Kuick pointed to the clear and direct language of the charter. When the victim came forward with the allegation and Conrad admitted to it, the die was cast and St. Mary's will go forward with a temporary administrator, who will be a priest.

Diocesan Chancellor Sister Mary Bride Grubbs and Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar of Priests Robert Morneau will be at a parish meeting at 7 p.m. today. Kuick said they will be in Clarks Mills to listen to "the (parishioners') pain and suffering" and try to answer any questions.

Cullinane, a teacher at Silver Lake College, said he has great compassion, understanding and sorrow for victims of sexual abuse, no matter whom perpetrates it.

"It does appear Christian justice would permit an individual judgment to be made by the bishop or an appointed panel, that an individual who has shown sorrow for sin and an ability to live without recommitting that sin should be given an opportunity to redeem himself," Cullinane said.

Berres believes many parishioners would prefer if Conrad didn't resign.

"But people know he doesn't have the choice. We know what the policy is. That doesn't mean we agree with it," she said.

Diocesan records show Conrad has been pastor of Immaculate Conception parish since 1971.

He had also been a director, chaplain and faculty member of Manitowoc Roncalli High School since 1970.

He was on the faculty of St. Mary High School, Menasha, from 1968 to 1970, according to diocesan records.

Conrad is a New Holstein native who was ordained in 1963. He previously served at St. Mary's parish, Manitowoc and at St. Jude, Green Bay.

He received a master's degree in educational administration from Notre Dame University in 1973.

 
 

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