Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Grows; Eight Now Accuse Diocesan Priest

By Phil Brinkman
Wisconsin State Journal
February 16, 1995

A year-old lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Madison alleging sexual abuse by one of its priests has grown dramatically with seven men joining the original plaintiff in the case.

The expanded suit, filed this week in Dane County Circuit Court, also names as defendants St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Madison and St. Henry Catholic Church in Watertown, where Rev. Michael Trainor was stationed before he was transferred to Madison.

But an attorney representing the churches and the diocese strongly denied the institutions had any knowledge of the alleged abuse and denounced as "outrageous" a claim that the former bishop of Madison was aware and did nothing. Trainor was first sued a year ago by a 26-year-old Eau Claire man identified only by the initials B.M., who said Trainor sexually abused him in 1982 at the St. Thomas rectory.

Now, seven men -- identified by the initials A.B., M.M., T.M., A.Z., J.P., D.P., and T.R. -- have come forward alleging similar abuse as children while Trainor was a priest at St. Henry and St. Thomas, 602 Everglade Drive. In all of the cases, the alleged victims had suppressed memories of the incidents until last year, said their attorney, Robert Elliott of Milwaukee.

According to the lawsuit, Trainor abused boys at his home, in rectories, while on overnight trips to Milwaukee for Brewers games, and in his office.

One man, A.Z., alleged more than 100 such incidents around 1978; another, M.M., said he was taken from religious classes at St. Thomas by Sister Georgeann Rodebusch and made to wait in a line with other boys outside Trainor's office. Trainor then visited privately with each boy, abusing some of them, according to the lawsuit.

Although they are not named as defendants, the suit says Rodebusch, former St. Henry Pastor Harold Lauters, former St. Henry principal Terry Schubert and the late Bishop Cletus O'Donnell of the Madison Diocese knew or should have known of Trainor's "pediophiliac compulsion" but did nothing to protect children. "I would strongly, in the strongest possible language, categorically deny that Bishop O'Donnell, or Father Lauters, or Sister Rodebusch, or Terry Schubert knew anything about this and did not act upon it," said diocese attorney Donald Heaney.

The lawsuit contends O'Donnell knew of Trainor's alleged inappropriate conduct but merely transferred him from St. Henry to St. Thomas, without offering an explanation to the parishes. But Heaney said the transfer occurred in 1982, two years before O'Donnell was first told of any suspicions concerning Trainor. O'Donnell then removed Trainor from the diocese, and he is no longer employed by the Catholic Church, Heaney said.


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