News Republic Editorial: It's Time to Hear Voice of Church on Vosen

Baraboo News Republic
September 12, 2009

Itís been nearly six years since Father Gerald Vosen was removed as pastor of St. Josephís Catholic Church in Baraboo because of allegations of sexual abuse.

Ever since he was relieved of his duties on Sept. 18, 2003, and then formally suspended by Bishop Robert Morlino in February 2004, Vosen has been trapped in a sort of priestly purgatory. Although Vosen adamantly denied all of the allegations that were raised against him, a church body ruled against him. His case has been on appeal to a Vatican court for more than two years.

Readers of the News Republic Opinion pages are well aware of Vosenís plight. Baraboo resident Walt Smith has written passionately ó and frequently ó imploring Morlino and the Catholic hierarchy to clear Vosenís name. But Smithís pleas ó and those from many other supporters of Vosen ó have fallen on deaf ears.

ó One of the accusers made an allegation, but never showed up to testify against Vosen.

ó One of the accusations was made by the sister of the alleged victim. But four days later, the "victim" denied there had been any abuse by Vosen. "I donít know where she (his sister) would come up with this and why," the man told the Wisconsin State Journal. "Ö she asked me about (Vosen) and if he had ever done anything to me. I told her no way. That is why I canít understand why she would say such a thing."

ó The third accusation stemmed from when Vosen was pastor at St. John Vianney Parish in Janesville. Vosen filed a civil suit against the alleged victim in that case, claiming defamation of character. After a four-day trial in August 2004, a jury decided Vosen had not met the burden of proof in claiming he had been defamed. But three of the jurors in the case were later quoted as saying there was "insufficient evidence (against Vosen) for a criminal trial." And the judge was quoted as saying, "There is ample evidence that these actions (Vosen was accused of) never occurred."in a 2008 interview.he did not expect that he would ever again be the pastor of St. Joseph or any other church. But he did hope that one day his name would be cleared and he would be able to fill in for priests who were on vacation.

Of course, the Catholic Church has its own laws. Despite the apparent lack of legal evidence against Vosen, a panel of three church officials in Madison ruled in August 2007 that the case against him had merit.

"They ruled to them it was evident there could have been sexual abuse, and we immediately appealed to the Vatican," Vosen told the News Republic

No criminal charges or lawsuits for damages were ever brought against Vosen, though he said the statute of limitations would have allowed one of the alleged victims to take his abuse allegations to court.

More than two years after that appeal, Vosen still lives under a cloud of suspicion because of the allegations made against him. The cruel irony is that in April, Vosen turned 75 Ė the mandatory age for retirement from the active priesthood.

In the 2008 interview, Vosen told the News Republic

"Iím still a priest and in my eyes, I will always be a priest," he said.

Obviously, this newspaper has no authority over the church. Some people might argue that we have no business even offering advice to church officials. But by remaining silent on the Vosen matter, church officials are coming across as aloof and uncharitable.

Father Vosen deserves better. The time is now for the church to tell its members why Vosen is guilty, or clear his name. Itís time that justice is served.

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