Evansville diocese kept identity of ‘incurable pedophile’ priest secret in 1990s

Courier & Press

April 1, 2019

By Jon Webb

“Happy Birthday!”

“Father Joseph Clauss, a retired priest of the Diocese of Evansville, celebrates his birthday Sept. 27. He resides at Guadeloupe Retreat Center.”

That was one of several upbeat messages appearing in diocesan newspaper The Message all through the 1990s. The paper consistently marked Clauss’ birthday and the anniversary of his ordination.

But it never mentioned the reason for his “retirement.” Or why he lived at a complex in Southern California.

In 2002, the truth finally came out: Clauss was an “incurable pedophile.”

This February, the diocese released the names of 12 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. Clauss, who died in 2003, was one of them.

There were 10 substantiated allegations against him – the second-most of anyone on the list. He admitted to one.

The details of those accusations have never been made public. And for 12 years, the diocese shielded churchgoers from the truth about a man who once taught their children and worshiped alongside them for decades.

Pastor and teacher
Clauss was ordained as a priest in 1956.

He went on to serve as pastor or associate pastor at six churches throughout the diocese. That doesn’t include residencies or administrative work at four other churches, nor does it scrape his varied career in the Catholic school system.

He served as a teacher at Memorial High School before becoming superintendent at Loogootee’s St. John High School in 1967 and Washington Catholic High School in 1969.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.