Priest Faces New Sex Accusations

By Lisa Schuetz
Wisconsin State Journal
January 16, 2003

A Diocese of Madison priest who was removed from his parish in June faces new allegations of sexual abuse in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit also accuses the diocese of failing to protect the plaintiff from the priest, the Rev. Kenneth Klubertanz.

A diocese review board has been pondering since July how to deal with two earlier sexual abuse allegations against Klubertanz.

The 46-year-old plaintiff, identified in court papers as "John Doe," says that Klubertanz, while a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Reedsburg, sexually abused him in 1969 and 1970.

The accuser's name is being withheld to protect his family's privacy, said his attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson of St. Paul, Minn. He gave the diocese the man's name. The State Journal, under some circumstances, does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Now living in North Dakota, the man said he became acquainted with the priest while serving as an altar boy.

"He was very personable. He'd rub your back and shoulders. He'd wink at you all the time," the man said. "You'd just think that was the way things were."

Over the next year the friendship grew, he said. Then his parents, devout Catholics, allowed the priest to take him away for the weekend to another parish family's northern Wisconsin cabin. He said that's where the most invasive assaults occurred.

It stopped, he said, "by me never going to church again after that."

Anderson said his client did not report the abuse to officials. The lawsuit alleges that the diocese may have known the priest was a pedophile, but doesn't provide specifics.

Diocesan spokesman Bill Brophy wouldn't comment on the suit because officials have not discussed it with the diocese's attorney. The diocese must file its answer in court, without extensions, by March 3.

On June 9, Bishop William H. Bullock removed Klubertanz from his job as pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Lodi. The removal came after a man alleged that Klubertanz, while at a Janesville church in 1975, had abused him at age 13.

In August, a second man told the diocese that Klubertanz abused him in 1968 in Reedsburg when the accuser was 16.

Klubertanz could not be reached for comment. The priest has left Lodi and is staying with family, Brophy said.

Bullock created the diocese's Review Board on Sexual Abuse in July. The two accusations against Klubertanz were referred to its members, but it has yet to make a recommendation to the diocese, Brophy said.

Bullock also said in November that he would reveal the names of all priests known to the diocese that have been accused of sexually abusing minors. He hasn't so far, but Brophy said he expects the bishop will provide the list by March 1.

Anderson said the lawsuit and five others he filed in Milwaukee County against the Milwaukee Archdiocese on behalf of alleged victims of the late Rev. George Nuedling could reverse a 1995 state Supreme Court decision that makes Wisconsin the only state where it is nearly impossible for victims to sue the church.


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