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  Milwaukee Priest Put on Leave
He Is Being Investigated over Use of Child Porn

By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 11, 2004

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has placed a 53-year-old associate pastor on leave and has restricted him from all ministry because he is being investigated by law enforcement authorities over "use of computer pornography involving minors."

However, Dolan told parishioners at Milwaukee's St. Veronica Church over the weekend that the priest, Father Ronald Engel, "has assured us that he has never had sexual contact with minors, and the investigation has not shown otherwise."

Dolan presided at the south side church's 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday and told the congregation why Engel had been placed on leave nine days earlier. His explanation, in the form of a letter to parishioners, was read by Father Mark Payne, the pastor, at the parish's other weekend Masses.

"Child pornography is a scourge on our society," Dolan's letter says. "It is a crime, a sin and a scandal. The church has rigorously fought against it. The upcoming weeks and months will be a difficult time for all of us, especially for you and the entire St. Veronica Parish community."

Kathleen Hohl, archdiocesan spokeswoman, said that collecting child pornography has been interpreted as a form of sexual abuse under the charter and norms adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Asked whether Engel admitted collecting child pornography, Hohl said only that he was placed on full restrictions as a result of: information that law enforcement officials shared with the archdiocese; the meeting archdiocesan officials had with Engel; and an archdiocesan investigation.

"It was sufficient for us to put him on full restrictions in the interests of the safety of children and young people, particularly in the St. Veronica community," Hohl said.

Neither Engel nor Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann could be reached for comment Monday.

Engel was ordained on May 28, 1977, by then Archbishop William E. Cousins. He has served as associate pastor of St. Veronica, 353 E. Norwich St., since June 15, 1999.

Dolan's letter to the parishioners expresses gratitude that Payne is there to provide strong pastoral leadership. It also says that counselors and archdiocesan staff members are available to help parish leaders, school staff, school families and parishioners.

Father Joe Hornacek, archdiocesan vicar for clergy, sent a nearly identical e-mail on Monday morning to all diocesan priests, parish directors, religious education directors, archdiocesan staff members, Catholic elementary school principals and Catholic high school presidents and principals in the archdiocese.

The e-mail and letter say that archdiocesan officials met with Engel on April 29, the day after law enforcement officials notified them of the investigation. Hohl said Engel was placed on leave with full restrictions the day of the meeting.

 
 

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