Madison Priest Accused of Fondling Teenage Girl Maintains His Innocence

By Sandy Cullen
Wisconsin State Journal
March 31, 2011

Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder, 64, allegedly fondled a teenage girl in Stevens Point and at her Monona home in 2003 and 2004, then threatened to sue the girl and her cousin for slander to stop them from telling other people about the incidents, according to a criminal complaint.

A Madison priest accused of fondling a teenage girl in 2003 and 2004 and exposing himself to her maintains his innocence, his attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Stephen Eisenberg, who is representing the Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder, said Clauder "looks forward to exonerating himself."

Clauder, 64, who was removed from public ministry in 1999, made an initial appearance Thursday in Dane County Circuit Court on a charge of sexual assault of a child under age 16. Commissioner Scott McAndrew ordered Clauder to have no contact with the alleged victim, who was 14 and 15 when the incidents are said to have occurred, or unsupervised contact with minors while free on a signature bond.

A status conference was set for Monday, at which time Eisenberg said a date could be set for a preliminary hearing.

The Diocese of Madison posted a statement on its website Wednesday saying, "There is no place in the priesthood for those who would abuse a child" and renewing its promise for appropriate precaution and reporting of sexual abuse of minors.

Laura Nyberg, who sued Clauder in 1993 after the two had been involved in what she termed an "inappropriate sexual relationship" after Clauder counseled her following her second miscarriage, attended Thursday's court appearance and urged any other victims to come forward. "For me, the most powerful thing is not to be alone," she said.

Nyberg praised the woman who came forward in 2009, at age 20, saying, "It takes a brave person to stand up to your family, your church, and say, ‘This happened to me."

Nyberg reached a settlement with Clauder in 1999 in the case that also resulted in a 1997 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that churches can't be held liable for the sexual misconduct of clergy. Wisconsin is the only state with such a ruling.

"I believe it was a political decision and not a right decision," Nyberg said. "I've been waiting for 20 years for some accountability."

-State Journal reporter Ed Treleven contributed to this story.



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