Priest's Accuser Tearful on Stand

By Mike DuPre
Janesville Gazette [Wisconsin]
August 3, 2005

The man being sued for allegedly defaming a Catholic priest by charging him with sexual abuse wept on the witness stand Tuesday.

The priest's attorney, Patrick McDonald of Janesville, was questioning the 26-year-old man, who now lives in Milwaukee, about how he has felt threatened by the priest, the Rev. Gerald Vosen.

"I've been harmed more now in so many ways by this than when it actually occurred," the man said, referring to the lawsuit in a breaking voice.

McDonald asked the man why he felt more harmed by the trial than the assaults.

"Because now my parents are going through it with me," the man replied, tears running down his cheeks. "Before it was just me. Now I see them in pain."

Judge John Roethe briefly recessed the jury trial in Rock County Court, and the man left the stand to be consoled by hugs from his mother and father.

Vosen, 71, is suing the man and his parents for allegedly making false and defamatory charges that Vosen repeatedly sexually abused the man during 1990-'92 when he was 11 and 12 years old and in the fifth and sixth grades at St. John Vianney School in Janesville.

Vosen was pastor at the time.

"It began by him putting his hands on me," the man testified.

The man did not look at Vosen or at McDonald when the lawyer asked questions. He directed his gaze at the jury of 13, one of whom is an alternate.

Much of the man's testimony had to do with the interior layout of St. John Vianney Church, who was there, and what they were doing.

That's because McDonald has tried to establish that Vosen would have had little or no opportunity to assault the boy, who was an altar server, when the man said he was abused.

The attorney also has tried to establish that the statements and testimony made by the man and his parents were false and/or inconsistent.

The man's mother testified Monday that he had told her that Vosen had threatened him with a knife.

But Tuesday, the man said he had not told his mother he had been threatened with a knife. Instead, he said, he told his mother: "I felt like I had a knife to my throat."

When McDonald asked the man what kind of danger he felt from Vosen, he replied: "I had gone through two years of sexual abuse at his hands and felt threatened."

McDonald frequently asked the man about how and how often he was assaulted.

The abuse started with Vosen's grinding up against him when they were in the sacristy, where priests and altar servers don their vestments, the man said.

He was abused before and after serving at Mass and when he was sent to the rectory, where Vosen lived, for discipline for school problems, the man testified.

The assaults escalated to rubbing and fondling while both were partially undressed and culminated in several instances of anal rape, the man said.

McDonald pressed the man on when and where he was allegedly raped.

"I don't really remember (the month). I just remember going over there-how I felt going over there, how I felt coming back," the man said. "I really didn't know what was going on. I didn't know if it was my fault or not.

"I didn't know if it was wrong. I just know it didn't seem right."

The man's defense attorney, John Casey of Milwaukee, asked him if he remembered being raped.

"I remember being totally out of it, being lost," he replied. "They all kind of rolled together. I put them all in one area of my mind and put the rest of my life in another area."

Asked if he remembered any details, the man said: "A single bed or cot. I remember it being dusty. I remember the smell of aftershave and mouthwash-very predominately. I remember it smelling musty. I remember mostly from flashbacks and nightmares."

The man was asked about his statements to Kathleen Wiskus, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Madison. In her summary of their conversations, she wrote that the man could not give exact dates and times because the assaults were too numerous.

The man testified that he signed her summary, which said that he had been abused at least once a week and that the frequency increased to three assaults weekly.

"I didn't know I was being sexually abused," the man said. "I thought it was when someone hurt you sexually."

McDonald then asked if the man had claimed that Vosen's actions hurt him.

"Yeah, but I trusted him," the man said.

He also replied "yes" when his attorney asked if Vosen had threatened to ruin his reputation by calling him a liar.

"Is this defamation lawsuit calling you a liar?" Casey asked.

""Yes, very much so-and my parents liars, too," the man replied.