St. Norbert Abbey Releases List of 22 Norbertine Priests Known to Have Abused Minors
By Haley BeMiller
July 19, 2019
|St. Norbert Abbey, 1016 N. Broadway, De Pere. (Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)|
St. Norbert Abbey has identified 22 Norbertine priests who sexually assaulted minors over six decades.
The abbey on Friday released the list of names after an investigation into abuse allegations conducted by an outside organization. Rt. Rev. Dane Radecki, abbot of St. Norbert, said in a letter that he chose to publish the findings "in the spirit of accountability."
"My hope is that the 'release of names' will assist in the healing process for victims and survivors," Radecki wrote. "I profoundly apologize and ask forgiveness from those abused by the Norbertines of our Abbey."
Norbertines, also known as Premonstratensians, are part of an independent order of Catholic clergy that differ from diocesan priests. They're based locally at an abbey in De Pere and serve Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and Holy Cross, among other parishes. Their priests also work at four Catholic schools, including St. Norbert College.
Only five of the 22 priests named are still alive, and 12 have multiple "credible" allegations against them. The abbey defines a credible allegation as one in which the priest confessed or "the preponderance of facts lead to the conclusion that the abuse probably took place."
The list includes three priests affiliated with other Norbertine foundations. A spokesman for the abbey said these allegations were reported to St. Norbert Abbey but would not clarify whether the abuse occurred in De Pere.
The investigation was conducted by Praesidium, an organization that helps Catholic dioceses and other organizations address child sexual abuse. Praesidium reviewed abbey files dating back to 1966 and found incidents of abuse from the 1940s to 1990s
|Rt. Rev. Dane Radecki, O. Praem., abbot of St. Norbert Abbey during a press conference in 2014. (Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)|
St. Norbert's investigation follows the release of a list by the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay earlier this year of 48 priests who sexually abused a minor. The diocese initially disclosed 46 names but added two more as additional survivors came forward.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has also named 48 priests who abused minors, and the state's other dioceses — Madison, La Crosse and Superior — have pledged to review their personnel files.
The abbey's findings also come 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.
The St. Norbert spokesman declined a reporter's request to interview Radecki Friday
Who are the priests?
Among the names published Friday are 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.
Angelo Feldkamp, who was placed on leave in 2002 while teaching at Notre Dame Academy, is also on the list. At the time, Feldkamp was one of four priests under investigation for misconduct, but the order declined to name the others. Feldkamp died earlier this year.
The abbey also named Camillus Frigo, who was accused in a lawsuit filed in Dane County in 1986, according to the clergy abuse monitor BishopAccountability.org. The case file no longer exists, so the details and outcome of the suit are unclear. Frigo left the abbey and ministry, according to St. Norbert.
Jason Jerry, a Green Bay news blogger, said Feldkamp touched his genitals while he was a junior at Notre Dame Academy. In an email to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Jerry called the list a "diversion" that only scratches the surface of sexual abuse at St. Norbert and doesn't address a culture that allowed the abuse to happen and remain hidden.
"No victim will be surprised by this list of previously convicted and deceased priests," he said. "Meanwhile, they continue to cover-up those who enabled (the priests on) the list, and those who are still being hidden."
In response to St. Norbert's disclosure, Peter Isely of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called for Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to investigate clergy abuse across Wisconsin. If the Norbertines were “serious about justice,” he said, they would turn their files over to Kaul and Green Bay law enforcement.
“The institution that has been shown to have allowed children to be raped and assaulted is not the institution who should be allowed to investigate itself, decide what information it will and will not release, and then serve up their own conclusions,” he said.
If you have information about sexual abuse at St. Norbert Abbey you wish to share, contact Haley BeMiller at (920) 431-8212 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @haleybemiller.