2 Brothers Sue Archdiocese, Saying Priest Assaulted Them

By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 8, 2009

Two adult brothers who contend they were sexually assaulted by a Waukesha County Catholic priest when they were boys sued the Milwaukee Archdiocese on Tuesday, saying it knew Father David Hanser had a history of molesting children and failed to warn their family.

The lawsuit, filed by David and Peter Neels in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, is the 12th civil fraud case now pending against the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by clergy.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said that the archdiocese acknowledged Hanser's history in 2002, and that he was laicized, or defrocked, in 2005. Hanser, of Nashotah, could not be reached for comment .

According to the lawsuit, Hanser served in several area parishes before being assigned to St. Mary Catholic Church in Pewaukee in the early 1980s.

The Neels - David, of Hudson, and Peter, of Cottage Grove, Minn. - contend that Hanser sexually assaulted them over several years beginning in 1982 when they were about 10 and 13 years old.

The lawsuit contends that the archdiocese knew of Hanser's proclivities as early as the 1970s when a previous victim, who said he was molested by Hanser at St. Joseph Church in Waukesha, attempted to report it.

Others believed molested

Hanser, 77, is believed to have molested as many as a dozen boys beginning in the 1960s, according to a 2003 investigation by Waukesha County authorities. The cases were not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.

Hanser settled a civil lawsuit involving another set of siblings in 2003, paying an unspecified sum of money to the family and the Child Abuse Prevention Fund.

Wisconsin law bars most lawsuits regarding older claims of sexual assault. But the state Supreme Court ruled last year that the church can be sued for fraud if victims show it was aware of misconduct and did not warn others. The Milwaukee Archdiocese has said it could be bankrupted by a judgment in the lawsuits after a 2008 ruling that it could not tap its insurance policies to cover intentional fraud.


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