De Pere-based St. Norbert Abbey plans to publicize list of priests accused of molesting children

By Haley Bemiller
July 2, 2019

The names of priests at St. Norbert Abbey accused of molesting children could be made public this summer.

The abbey is in the final stages of reviewing sexual assault allegations against Norbertines over the years, the Green Bay Press-Gazette has learned. Montie Chavez, a spokesperson for St. Norbert, said the abbey aims to release the names of those priests by the end of summer.

Chavez declined to identify the independent agency handling the investigation, but the Right Rev. Dane Radecki, abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, told the Press-Gazette earlier this year that Praesidium was assisting with it. Praesidium is an organization that works with Catholic dioceses on their responses to clergy abuse.

Norbertines, sometimes known as Premonstratensians, differ from diocesan priests in the vows they take, according to St. Norbert's website. Locally, the order is based at an abbey in De Pere and serves Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and Holy Cross, among other parishes. Their priests also work at four Catholic schools, including St. Norbert College.

St. Norbert's findings would follow the release of a list by the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay earlier this year of 48 priests with "substantial allegations" of sexual abuse of a minor against them. The diocese initially released 46 names but added two more as additional survivors came forward.

The abbey's investigation also comes amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic church as survivors and their advocates call for greater transparency worldwide. Pressure is coming from the Vatican, too, as Pope Francis recently issued a decree requiring clergy to report abuse to church officials. 

Meanwhile, at least 14 state attorneys general in the U.S. have launched their own investigations into clergy abuse.

Allegations against Norbertine priests have surfaced throughout the years. Perhaps the most well-known is former priest James Stein, who was convicted in 2004 of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in a hot tub at the abbey. Stein was sentenced to one year in jail and 10 years of probation and is now a registered sex offender. He lives in Milwaukee.

Prior to that, Stein was convicted in 1991 of fourth-degree sexual assault after touching a 19-year-old's genitals.



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