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  Ex-Priest Faces New Complaint
Placed on Leave after Allegations

By Pat Schneider
Capital Times
December 31, 2002

New allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been lodged against a former Catholic priest who worked in several parishes in the Madison Diocese.

An alleged victim of the Rev. Michael Trainor disclosed to Madison Diocese officials last month an incident that reportedly occurred in 1980 while Trainor was a priest at St. Henry's Parish in Watertown, diocesan spokesman Bill Brophy said Monday.

In a series of civil lawsuits against the Madison Diocese, at least a dozen accusers said Trainor abused them as boys while working in Madison area parishes and at the now shuttered Holy Name Seminary. The new accuser is not among victims brought to the diocese's attention in the past, Brophy said.

The disclosure about Trainor came as the diocese announced that a second priest has been placed on leave this month, pending investigation of unspecified allegations.

Madison police have investigated -- and recommended no prosecution -- of allegations against the priest placed on leave this week.

Neither District Attorney Brian Blanchard nor the diocese would specify the type of allegations against Rev. Robert DeCock, whose suspension from normal duties at St. Paul University Catholic Center was announced from the pulpit there at Sunday masses.

Blanchard said charges will not be brought against DeCock, a member of the Schoenstatt Order working for the Madison Diocese.

The sexual abuse lawsuits involving Trainor, brought in the early 1990s in Dane County Circuit Court, were dismissed after a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling that raised a First Amendment barrier to courts evaluating the employment practices of the church. The court decision does not bar criminal prosecutions.

But Brophy, citing the statute of limitations, said that criminal prosecution under the new allegations was unlikely.

Information on the case was forwarded to the Dodge County District Attorney's office, Brophy said, although a spokesman there said Monday there was no record of it.

Watertown police, who would routinely assess evidence before handing it over to the district attorney, also had no record of recent allegations against Trainor, said Capt. Tom Killmon.

The statute of limitations at the time of Trainor's alleged offense was six years, but priests accused of even older sex crimes are being prosecuted in some jurisdictions.

In Outagamie County, a 75-year-old priest is being prosecuted for sexual assault of a minor that allegedly occurred in 1978.

John Patrick Feeney was arrested in Los Angeles in September on three felony charges from Outagamie County . Because Feeney left Wisconsin in 1983, following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with adolescent boys, the six-year deadline on prosecutions is suspended, Outagamie District Attorney Vince Biskupic has so far successfully argued in court.

Trainor left Wisconsin in 1984, after two parents confronted the late Bishop Cletus O'Donnell with evidence that Trainor had abused their sons. So the statute of limitations might not protect him.

Trainor entered a New Mexico facility that treated priest sex abusers, then worked in Montana parishes until 1991 when he resigned from the priesthood.

No active investigation is underway in cases relating to Trainor in Dane County, Blanchard said Monday.

In general, prosecution of old cases is difficult, said Blanchard, who this summer issued a public plea for victims of priest sex abuse to come forward to authorities.

"We proceed on the basis of evidence we have in hand," he said. "In these kinds of cases there are potential barriers to investigation, and also legal barriers."

Victims sometimes elect not to cooperate in prosecutions of older cases, their memories of incidents may have deteriorated and physical evidence often is lost, Blanchard said.

On Dec. 17, a Nigerian priest working in Iowa County, the Rev. Peter Claver Arnoue, was put on administrative leave pending investigation of unspecified charges.

The Madison Diocese vowed to identify priests accused of sexual misconduct following the furor across the nation that met revelations that officials of some dioceses allowed accused priests to continue to continue to function as priests. Madison diocesan officials this summer identified allegations of long-ago sexual misconduct as the reason for putting Kenneth Klubertanz, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Lodi, on leave. Klubertanz has denied the allegations.

While Klubertanz' accusers have told the diocese they don't want to be identified in a criminal prosecution, his case is being investigated for possible administrative action by the Madison Catholic Dioceses' Review Board on Sexual Abuse.

The board is headed by retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Roland Day, who wrote the 1995 decision that protects churches from lawsuits.

 
 

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