Six Priests in Milwaukee Archdiocese Sex Abuse Records Worked in Waukesha

By Charles Gorney
The Patch
July 3, 2013

Six priests named in the sexual abuse files worked at three different churches in Waukesha from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Six 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 Waukesha, 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, faculty at Catholic Memorial High School, 1961-1970
  • Donald Peters, faculty at Catholic Memorial High School, 1967-1969
  • George Hopf, assistant at St. Mary Parish, 1962-1966
  • Ronald Bandle, pastoral team member at St. Mary Parish, 1983-1989
  • John Wagner, associate pastor at St. William Parish, 1973-1974
  • Franklyn Becker, associate pastor at St. William Parish, 1974-1975
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 a faculty member at Catholic Memorial High School from 1961 until 1970. There were no reports of sexual abuse while he was a teacher there, but allegations later came forward that he had relationships with male high school students.

There have been reports that he took teenage boys to his cottage, along with other reports of sexual abuse. One document in his file indicates his preference for youth work.

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.

Donald Peters

Peters was a faculty member at Catholic Memorial High Schoolfrom 1967 until 1969. There were no allegations of abuse from his time there, but many allegations followed. Some were anonymous, others were substantiated.

Peters was heavily involved in the Boy Scouts, including a chaplaincy in Sheboygan during the 1980s.

Peters retired in 1993, but he was still involved in ministry for some time. He was restricted by the archdiocese in 2002 and laicized in 2007.

George Hopf

Hopf was an assistant at St. Mary Parish from 1962 to 1966. In 2002, there was one report from Hopf's time at St. Mary's alleging that he abused a survivor who was 3 to 6 years old at the time. There were other reports of abuse that allegedly occurred in 1969.

Hopf was on sick leave from 1976 until his death in 2004. There was also a $50,000 payment recorded in 2004.

Ronald Bandle

Bandle was a pastoral team member at St. Mary Parish from 1983 until 1989. While there were no allegations against him during his time there, it was later reported that he had a relationship with a 12-year-old in Waukesha in 1987.

Bandle was restricted from all public ministry and unsupervised contact with minors in 1993, but in 1996 he was assigned as an assisting priest at St. Joseph/St. Killian Parish in Lyons. He held that assignment until his death in 2001.

John Wagner

Wagner was associate pastor at St. William Parish in 1973 and 1974. There were no allegations of sexual abuse against him during that time, but many others followed in the 1980s and 1990s.

In all, Wagner cost the archdiocese around $550,000 in settlement agreements paid to Wagner's survivors.

He was offered $20,000 for voluntary laicization in 2008, but he wanted more money to go through the process voluntarily.

Franklyn Becker

Becker was associate pastor at St. William Parish from 1974 until 1975. Though there were no allegations of abuse from his time there, many others were reported later.

In 1982, Becker was chaplain on a Caribbean cruise, and he brought a seventh grade boy along — with his mother's permission. According to the records, Becker later said that he had "no physical contact with the boy," though "they shared the same bed."

Becker's timeline is an extensive, 17-page account of the sexual abuse allegations against him. He worked at several other parishes until he was restricted from all public ministry in 2002.

No charges have been pressed against Becker.

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.


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