Priest Arrested for Child Porn Possession

By McClatchy-Tribune
July 16, 2010

State agents Wednesday arrested a Diocese of La Crosse priest for possession of child pornography after finding images on his computer, officials said.

The Rev. Patrick Umberger, 59, is in the La Crosse County Jail and expected to appear today in La Crosse County Circuit Court. The state Department of Justice declined to release more information until a criminal complaint is filed.

Umberger, who serves St. Patrick's Parish in Onalaska, has been removed from active ministry pending the investigation, Diocesan attorney Jim Birnbaum said.

"This action should not be interpreted as any indication of assessment of guilt or innocence," Birnbaum said. "It is taken to protect all parties involved."

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

Umberger is a Stoddard native who was ordained in 1980 by former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland after attending St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, according to his website. He has a bachelor's degree in instrumental and vocal music from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

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.

A web ministry he formed in 1993 has received national attention, his website states.

He served multiple stints around central and western Wisconsin, including parishes in Arcadia, La Crosse, Mauston, Wonewoc and Elroy, before being appointed to St. Patrick's Parish in June 2005 by then-Bishop Jerome Listecki, now archbishop of Milwaukee. He was tapped as web master for the Diocese of La Crosse two months later and the following year was named to a committee to select software for the diocese.

He also teaches at St. Patrick School and is chaplain at Aquinas Middle School, his website states.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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