Four Priests Leaving Ministry Due to Sex Cases

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 21, 2002

Four priests involved in past sexual activity with minors are giving up their positions at parishes in the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese, officials announced Tuesday.

With the moves, the archdiocese said it has no priest with a substantiated incident of sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual contact with a minor still serving in any active ministry position.

The 10-county archdiocese in southeastern Wisconsin, like those across the nation, has reviewed records of all of its priests for incidents of sexual activity in the wake of a scandal involving a pedophile priest in Boston.

Among the four leaving the active ministry in the Milwaukee Archdiocese is the Rev. James Godin, who told the congregation at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Whitewater last weekend that he would leave at the end of the month.

He informed parishioners in a letter Aug. 14 that he was involved in "inappropriate behavior" with a 17-year-old boy 19 years ago when he had a drinking problem.

The archdiocese said Godin and two others - the Rev. Daniel J. Massie of Beaver Dam and the Rev. Jerome A. Wagner of Fond du Lac - were asked by Bishop Richard J. Sklba to leave their active ministry positions.

Massie declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press, and Wagner did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Massie, a ministerial team member of St. Michael parish, St. Patrick parish and St. Peter parish in Beaver Dam, will leave and cease any priestly ministry Aug. 26, the archdiocese said.

Wagner, a team member at Holy Family parish in Fond du Lac, will also leave the parish and cease any priestly ministry Aug. 26, the archdiocese said.

A fourth priest, the Rev. Franklyn Becker, was restricted from any active ministry July 22 because of a past history of sexual contact with a minor. Before that, he had no ministry assignment but had been available to help out on weekends.

The archdiocese gave no details of the past incidents leading to the actions.

However, Wagner was reported earlier to have been accused of supplying youths with alcohol and, on one such occasion, making sexual advances to a 15-year-old boy at St. Jerome Church in Oconomowoc.

His case and those of the other priests were considered by members of the College of Consultors, nine priests drawn from a priest council, who worked with Sklba in reviewing the cases of various priests in the archdiocese.

Sklba has served as administrator of the archdiocese since the departure of former Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

Weakland, 75, requested and was granted his immediate retirement in May after news broke that he secretly reached a $450,000 settlement in 1998 with a former Marquette University theology student who said Weakland sexually assaulted him in 1979.

About 400 of the nation's more than 46,000 Roman Catholic priests have either been dismissed from their duties or resigned since January, when the case of the pedophile priest in Boston spurred claims against Roman Catholic dioceses across America.

A policy adopted by the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops at a June conference calls for any priest who has sexually abused a child or youth to be removed from all future active ministry. The policy is voluntary until approved by the Vatican.

The announcements Tuesday resolved the last of six cases against priests in active ministry that the Milwaukee Archdiocese had first acknowledged in late March. Godin was not among those six.

The three other priests among the original six have either resigned or been removed from active ministry.

They are the Rev. Michael Krejci, who headed St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Eagle, the Rev. David Hanser, who was accused of abusing boys in Waukesha County, and the Rev. Thomas Trepanier, who resigned from St. Dominic in Brookfield in May.

Peter Isely of Milwaukee, who has been a spokesman for a national group of victims of sexual abuse by priests, said the latest moves by the archdiocese did not go far enough.

For example, the removal of any priests with a substantiated incident of sexual abuse "does not include religious order priests, of which there is a large number in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in public ministry in parishes, schools and hospitals," Isely said.

Leaders of men's religious orders have adopted a voluntary policy that did not call for removing offenders from all priestly ministry.

Isely also criticized the church for not removing bishops who knowingly left abusive priests in active ministry over the years.


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