Priest Charged in Sex-Abuse Case Was Put on Leave in Hot Tub Incident

By Andy Nelesen
Green Bay Press-Gazette
September 20, 2003

Officials at the St. Norbert Abbey became aware that a former priest was being accused of sexual misconduct in April 2002 and immediately placed him on administrative leave, according to a release that Abbot Gary Neville issued Friday.

"The community of St. Norbert Abbey is most saddened by the accusation against Fr. James Stein," Neville said.

Stein, 43, was charged this week with three counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child, stemming from allegations that he fondled a then-14-year-old boy in the hot tub and shower of the De Pere abbey.

Neville said Stein was placed on leave by then-Abbot E. Thomas DeWane in April 2002 and has not served as a priest since.

"We have cooperated with authorities in the investigation and will continue to do so," Neville said. "We realize that cases of this nature are complex and contain pastoral and human issues for both the abused and the accused. St. Norbert Abbey accepts the responsibility to act appropriately when allegations arise."

Stein was not arrested, but was issued a summons to appear in court Sept. 30. If convicted, he faces 30 years in prison.

According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Stein invited a boy to go swimming at the abbey in August or September 1988. While in the hot tub in the abbey, Stein allegedly put his hand on the boy's leg and reached under his swimming suit. When the boy left the tub to take a shower, Stein allegedly followed him into the shower and fondled the boy there.

Investigators have been working on the case since March 2002. The case was stalled because both Stein and the victim, now 29, had moved out of state. Stein returned to the area several weeks ago.

"St. Norbert Abbey abhors the abuse of persons, especially children," Neville said in his release. "Our hearts go out to anyone who has been exploited."


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