Wis. Priest Accused of Having Child Porn Arrested

July 14, 2010

An Onalaska priest was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of child pornography possession, the state Justice Department said.

A department statement offered no details about the arrest of the Rev. Patrick Umberger, 59, except to say the agency's Internet Crimes Against Children's Task Force was involved, suggesting the alleged crimes were computer-related.

Umberger was in the La Crosse County Jail on Wednesday night. Formal charges were expected Thursday. The priest's attorney, Jim Birnbaum, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Umberger describes himself on his website as a self-taught computer user who served as the Diocese of La Crosse's web master. He has served as pastor at St. Pat's Parish in Onalaska, about 150 miles northwest of Madison, since May 2005. He also teaches at the parish school, according to his site.

The parish's deacon, Frank Abnet, referred questions to the diocese. A message left there after hours Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.

Umberger holds a bachelor's degree in instrumental and vocal music from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, according to his site.

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland ordained him as a priest in 1980. He served multiple stints around central and western Wisconsin, including stops at parishes in Arcadia, La Crosse, Mauston, Wonewoc and Elroy.

Umberger's site said he bought his first computer in 1984 through the mail and never has had a computer class of any kind. In 1993 he was named pastor of St. Bronislava Parish in Plover, where he began a web ministry, sending out e-mails with prayers, Bible readings and reflection questions.

In August 2005 then-Bishop Jerome Listecki, now the archbishop of Milwaukee, named Umberger web master for the Diocese of La Crosse and the following year he was named to a committee to select software for the diocese.

His site notes he has visited Rome four times and has made several trips to Mexico.


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