Diocese Defends Its Response to Lake Delton Police Report

By Anne Jungen
LaCrosse Tribune
August 5, 2010

[Umberger complaint]

The Rev. Patrick Umberger

The Diocese of La Crosse on Wednesday defended what the organization knew about an Onalaska priest's activities before his July arrest on child pornography charges.

The Diocese said it received a mailed copy of a five-page Lake Delton police report Sept. 8, 2009, about seven weeks after the Rev. Patrick Umberger reportedly followed several young boys into a Wisconsin Dells waterpark bathroom, according to a statement posted on the Diocese's website.

"The report did not allege any interaction or suspicious activity with children in or outside the restroom," according to the statement.

Diocese officials were not available Wednesday to answer questions on the statement.

The Tribune's copy of a five-page Lake Delton police report states authorities were called to Noah's Ark Water Park on July 22, 2009, for "suspicious activity" after a family and two employees said they watched Umberger repeatedly trail boys into the bathroom near a children's pool area.

Umberger, who resigned in late July as priest at St. Patrick's Catholic Parish in Onalaska, was found standing next to a urinal, the report stated. He explained to an officer he has prostate problems and had to urinate often.

He was not arrested, but park officials revoked his season pass and he was told not to return, according to the police report.

The Diocese's statement said it only knew "there were mere suspicions but no evidence of any crime or other wrong doing."

After receiving the report, "an investigation was made to verify Father Umberger's explanation and it was confirmed," the Diocese said in the statement.

The Diocese on Wednesday also contended it did not know about a subsequent written statement from a Noah's Ark manager that provided further details on Umberger's behavior and said he now was on the park's "watch list."

"The Diocese had no knowledge of and did not learn of Father Umberger's access to any pornography, attraction to children or other moral infractions," it said in the statement.

Umberger was charged July 15 in La Crosse County Circuit Court with one count of possession of child pornography after state agents discovered three sexually graphic photos of nearly nude children on his computer, according to the complaint. A not guilty plea has been entered in the case, set for an Oct. 19 status conference.

Umberger has been removed from active ministry pending the outcome of the criminal case.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.