Five Priests in Milwaukee Archdiocese Sex Abuse Records Worked in Brookfield

By Charles Gorney
The Patch
July 3, 2013

David Hanser was associate pastor at St. John Vianney Parish in the 1970s, and James Flynt, Vincent Silvestri, Charles Walter and Thomas Trepanier were associate pastors at St. Dominic Parish.

Five priests whose names appear on a list of priests removed or restricted from ministry because of substianted allegations of sexual abuse of minors worked in Brookfield parishes, according to records released Monday.

The release, partly motivated by the archdiocese's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, includes about 6,000 pages of documents — from personnel files of priests accused of sexual abuse to depositions of high-ranking archdiocese officials, including former archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Among the names listed are:

  • David Hanser, associate pastor and temporary administrator at St. John Vianney Parish, 1972-1978
  • James Flynt, associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish, 1987-1989
  • Vincent Silvestri, associate pastor at St. Dominic, 1983-1993
  • Charles Walter, associate pastor at St. Dominic, 1984-1987
  • Thomas Trepanier, associate pastor at St. Dominic, 2000-2002
The documents were selected by the abuse survivor attorneys, archdiocese chief of staff Jerry Topczewski told Patch. Though the records were released as part of a bankruptcy agreement, Topczewski stressed that releasing the files can be part of the healing process for abuse survivors.

"Ultimately, we want them to know that the church loves them," Topczewski said. "And the church owes them a debt of gratitude for having the courage to come forward."

But according to press releases from SNAP Wisconsin, the local arm of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the documents have some major implications for the archdiocese.

In one press release, SNAP Wisconsin Director John Pilmaier suggests that archdiocese officials were involved in a “criminal conspiracy” with the practice of re-assigning known offenders to churches and schools after they underwent treatment for pedophilia.

According to the press release, a group of experts with the American Psychological Association compared the practice to “giving an alcoholic a job in a bar.”

Here is what the records have to say about the priests assigned to local churches:

David Hanser

Hanser was associate pastor and temporary administrator at St. John Vianney Parish from 1972 to 1978. There have been two allegations against him for abuse of young boys. There have been other reports that he took teenage boys to his cottage, along with other reports of sexual abuse.

In Hanser's file, there are numerous mentions of his therapist assuring the archdiocese that he "does not present any risk to any age person with whom he might work."

Hanser retired in 2002, and he was laicized in 2005.

James Flynt

Flynt was associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish from 1987 to 1989. There were no formal allegations of sexual abuse during his time there, but there was a formal request from the St. Dominic staff that he be suspended.

According to the documents, he was known for making "inappropriate expressions of affection for young men." In 1992, it was noted that he was the legal guardian for a sixth grade boy.

In 1994, there was a letter from a woman regarding her wedding, where Flynt reportedly "displayed socially inappropriate and unacceptable behavior including swearing, lewd dancing and treating people harshly during rehearsal and reception." He reportedly asked the groom "if he was 'messed with' by a former priest and asked if he had ever had a relationship with a man."

His file includes numerous other reports of abuse. He was laicized in 2004.

Vincent Silvestri

Silvestri was associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish from 1983 to 1993, when he retired after a stroke. During his time there, he had allegations of a sexual relationship with adult men.

Other sexual abuse reports were made following his retirement, and he died in 2000.

Charles Walter

Walter was associate pastor at St. Dominic from 1984 to 1987. There were no allegations of sexual abuse against him during his time there, but there were allegations pertaining to his other assignments.

There was a settlement paid to a survivor in 1993, and Walter spent the rest of the 1990s on personal leave and sick leave until his retirement in 1999. He was later restricted from public ministry.

Thomas Trepanier

Trepanier was associate pastor at St. Dominic from 2000 to 2002. Though there were no allegations of abuse during his time there, he resigned in 2002 when an older allegation came under investigation by the archdiocese.

The main allegation of abuse came from a survivor who was reportedly abused as a boy at St. Robert Parish in Shorewood.

Though no criminal charges have been filed, Trepanier's extensive 11-page timeline details the allegations of abuse. Trepanier was the recipient of one of the controversial payments being considered in the bankruptcy case.Allegations Treated Differently Now

According to Topczewski, "no priest today can serve in ministry if there's a substantiated allegation of sex abuse."

He told Patch that allegations are immediately reported to the police. If the district attorney determines that an allegation cannot be prosecuted, he said the church conducts its own investigation, headed by an independent review board and often facilitated by retired Milwaukee police detectives.


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