Bishop Sends Advisory on Baraboo Priest
Not Just One Allegation, Note Suggests

By Richard W. Jaeger
Wisconsin State Journal
December 20, 2003

There may be other allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct by a Baraboo priest who was removed from his duties in September, Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino said Friday in a carefully worded letter to the members of St. Joseph parish in Baraboo.

The letter was in response to an outcry of support for the Rev. Gerald Vosen, pastor of St. Joseph, who was removed from his duties in September after a Sun Prairie woman told a legislative committee that the priest had sexually abused her brother more than 25 years ago. The alleged victim denied any abuse and questioned his sister's motives.

According to Bill Brophy, spokesman for the diocese, parish members at St. Joseph have written hundreds of letters and e-mails to Morlino and to the Sexual Abuse Review Board of the Madison Catholic Diocese, which is reviewing the complaints against Vosen, to re-instate their priest, who has been living at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Center in Madison.

"It would be wrong for anyone to presume that the single allegation made by a family member of a victim, and then subsequently denied by the victim himself, is the only allegation to which we are forced to respond," Morlino wrote in his letter. "It would be wrong to presume that the denial by a particular victim of any allegation against Father Vosen brings the whole matter to an end. It would be wrong to presume that.

"Furthermore it would be wrong to presume that there are no other issues of inappropriate behavior, apart from sexual misconduct, to which the Bishop and Father Vosen must respond," he added.

The bishop called the matter "complex," adding that he has said more than he should while the review is being conducted. "It is still my desire for the sake of Father Vosen's good name and his canonical protection to reveal as little detail as possible, while unanswered questions remain," Morlino wrote in his letter. "I have no intention at this moment of divulging the total complexity of the situation and at this time I must beg you to refrain from further pressure directed toward me or toward the Review Board as if we were not doing our best.

"I surely regret the suffering that this situation has brought upon all involved, Father Vosen in particular," the bishop said.

James Dresang, 40, of Madison, told the Wisconsin State Journal in September that he was shocked and surprised by the allegations made by his sister, Karen Dresang Nelson, of Sun Prairie, accusing Vosen of sexually assaulting him when he was 14. He denied the accusation. He said that Vosen, who was at St. Dennis parish in Madison at the time, befriended many of the young people in the parish and took them fishing on Lake Wisconsin where the priest had a cabin.

No other people have stepped forward to publicly accuse Vosen of any wrong doing. He denied the allegations.

Jack Meegan, a member of St. Joseph's expressed disappointment that it took the diocese so long to provide parishioners additional information. Although he has not seen the letter from Morlino, which will be in the parish bulletin this weekend, he said the lack of details and specific information "leaves us concerned and frustrated."

Meegan is among the group of parishioners organizing a Vigil Walk outside the Baraboo church on Monday. The walk, expressing support for Vosen will begin at 11 a.m., Meegan, a 31 year member of St. Joseph's, said.


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