Madison Priest Accused of Abuse Maintains His Innocence

March 31, 2011

The attorney for a Madison priest charged with fondling a teenage girl in Stevens Point and at her Monona home in 2003 and 2004 said the clergyman is innocent and looks forward to exonerating himself.

The Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder made his initial appearance in Dane County Circuit Court on Thursday. Attorney Stephen Eisenberg spoke on Clauder's behalf.

According to the criminal complaint, Clauder threatened to sue the girl for slander to stop her from telling other people about the incidents.

On Thursday, the court permitted the 64-year-old Clauder to remain free on a signature bond and ordered him to have no contact with the alleged victim or unsupervised contact with minors.

The Madison Roman Catholic Diocese released a statement Wednesday detailing Clauder's background in the church. Clauder was removed from his public role as a priest in 1999 the diocese became aware of an inappropriate relationship with an adult woman.

That woman, Laura Nyberg, said Thursday that more victims could be out there and she's urging them to speak out.

Nyberg is speaking out about the abuse she said she endured before the alleged child sexual assault took place. She said her connection to Clauder spans decades.

"Back 20 years ago, when I reported it, people did not understand that it could happen to an adult." said Nyberg, who was recovering from a miscarriage at Madison General Hospital, now known as Meriter Hospital, where Clauder counseled patients.

It's there that Nyberg said Clauder's abuse began, saying the priest engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship. In 1999, the Diocese of Madison removed Clauder from public ministry.

Nyberg said she's saddened to learn of another abuse victim.

"This just shakes you to your very soul," Nyberg said. "So it's very sad to see that this was allowed to continue and it happened to someone else. The sole reason I came forward was to prevent this pain to happen to someone else."

"It's absolutely tragic because what happens is, as time goes by, this person has more opportunities to abuse additional people." said John Pilmaier with Wisconsin's Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "And that's why it is so important, anyone who has suffered sexual assault, to immediately report that abuse to the authorities."

Brent King, with the Diocese of Madison, said the church is working with the legal system.

"We know where he lives. We don't have any permanent monitoring, but he's not been convicted of any crime in the past." King said. "Statute of limitations, which are there for a reason, would keep civil authorities from taking any action. The church however doesn't have any statute of limitations."

After the legal case against Clauder concludes, church leaders said the Catholic Church will then make a decision in its own canonical trial, which could lead to the laicization, otherwise known as "defrocking" of Clauder.


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