Priest on Leave after Allegations
But Denies Any Sexual Misconduct
September 22, 2003
An accusation of sexual misconduct made at a State Capitol hearing last week caused a Baraboo priest to be placed on leave from his church until the matter is resolved, officials say.
The Rev. Gerald Vosen, pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, issued a letter to parishioners denying he had ever abused any young person.
"I am so sorry for the hurt all of us must live through at the present time," said the letter, which was read to parishioners this weekend by Msgr. Paul Swain, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison. "I can assure that I have not abused a child or a youth."
Swain also read a statement from Bishop Robert Morlino, which said "in the current, highly charged environment, it seemed best that Father Vosen be absent from" the parish.
With word of the accusation spreading in the Baraboo area and elsewhere, church leaders decided that Vosen should leave the church temporarily, pending resolution of the matter, the statement said.
"Bishop Morlino, absent an actual report of an allegation, cannot determine a response, so that Father Vosen's absence should in no way be interpreted to argue against the presumption of his innocence," the statement said.
The allegation was made Thursday at the Capitol during a public hearing on a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in sex abuse cases and require churches to report sex abuse allegations to authorities.
A woman from Sun Prairie told legislators that she saw Vosen sexually abuse her brother in the early 1970s on one of the occasional overnight trips to a cottage that Vosen took them and other children.
The Diocese of Madison in February released the names of four priests against whom documented allegations in of abuse in the 1950s through 1970s by 19 victims resulted in $1.6 million in settlements. Vosen was not among them.
No direct allegation of wrongdoing by Vosen had been made to church officials. A check of Wisconsin court records Sunday showed no charges filed against Vosen.
Swain's statement said the individual who made the allegation was urged to bring it directly to church authorities. The bishop promised to respond in compliance to church norms governing the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse.
Vosen is temporarily residing at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Center in Madison, church officials said.
Swain said Vosen had met with Bishop Morlino about the allegation.
Vosen, 69, was raised on a farm near Merrimac and graduated from high school in Sauk City. He was ordained in 1961 and served in other parishes before being assigned to St. Joseph's in December 1994.
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