Franklin Priest Charged with Groping Teen

By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 11, 2011

A Franklin priest has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor after allegedly groping a 15-year-old girl while in La?Crosse for a canon law conference earlier this week.

Father David T. Szatkowski, 37, newly elected provincial secretary of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, is accused of grabbing the girl's breast late Monday night or early Tuesday morning near his hotel, according to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday in La?Crosse. Witnesses, one of whom photographed Szatkowski with a cellphone, said he appeared intoxicated.

Szatkowski told police he had consumed three to five alcoholic beverages before going for a walk late Monday. He recalled talking with a group of students, including a woman who appeared to be 19 or 20 years old, but denied any inappropriate contact with her.

Szatkowski resigned from all public ministry - he had served as an associate professor of canon law and director of English as a second language at the order's seminary, Sacred Heart School of Theology - pending the outcome of an investigation, spokeswoman Mary Gorski said Thursday. She called it standard procedure.

Szatkowski, who studied in Rome until last year, recently completed his thesis on the role of religious orders in seeking justice for child sex abuse victims, Gorski said.

In an unrelated case, two Sacred Heart priests accused of abusing children at an American Indian school in the 1970s were exonerated by an outside review board. A lawsuit against them is pending in South Dakota.

Father Thomas Lind and Father William Pitcavage were returned to ministry after being cleared by the board in February, Gorski said.

Pitcavage, who was elected vice provincial last year, had served briefly in Wisconsin as a deacon at St. James Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls in 1976-'77 and as a chaplain at St. Luke's Hospital in 1980-'81. He lives at the order's retirement home in Franklin. Lind, who is retired and lives in Mississippi, never served in ministry in Wisconsin.


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