Diocese of La Crosse releases names of clergy accused of child sexual abuse
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Diocese of La Crosse releases names of clergy accused of child sexual abuse

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The Diocese of La Crosse released the names Saturday of more than two dozen clergy who have faced a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

The diocese said none of the accused are now in public ministry. Many are listed as deceased. The list comes from an independent review of clergy files dating to 1868.

Bishop William Patrick Callahan released a four-minute video and a letter that will be read at Mass this weekend throughout the diocese explaining the release of information.

Callahan said the disclosure of the names of clergy with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse “is an important step: The Church must again confess to this evil and pledge our prayers and support to all victims and their families.”

Bishop William Callahan mug

Callahan

He wrote:

“To all victims and their loved ones, everywhere: I and so many others continue to offer prayers and assistance. I realize that our promise of continued prayer and support may not seem to be enough; for your pain, suffering and anguish will always be a part of you. I am sorry, however, for all you’ve suffered.

“The disclosure of names is a necessary step. Victims inform us that it assists in their healing process and it provides them with no small sense of justice. Victims and their loved ones must no longer suffer in silence and isolation.

“This is also a painful step. It’s painful to all victims, certainly, for their nightmare resurfaces yet again with this public release; and it is painful, too, for all good and faithful laity and clergy who continue to feel anger and humiliation for the abuse of both power and conscience committed by these men.

“Even with that, the disclosure of names is the right thing to do, for all of us!”

According to the diocese, “an allegation is deemed to be substantiated if it has been sufficiently confirmed so as to believe that abuse occurred. This determination follows a process of consultation and is not a legal judgment.”

The diocese website further clarified that “the fact that a specific parish is on the list does not mean that an act of abuse occurred at said parish. Its only significance is that a priest on our list once served at that parish.”

Eighteen of those identified either diocesan clergy — priests or deacons incardinated in the Diocese of La Crosse. The allegations against them either involved conduct occurring in the Diocese of La Crosse or while the they were incardinated in the diocese.

Those identified are:

Bruce Ball

Raymond Bornbach

Eugene Comiskey

Thomas Dempsey

James Ennis

James Finucan

John Thomas Finucan

Tom Garthwaite

Richard Herrmann

William Hertzenberg

Thomas Langer

James E. Mason

Garland Muller

Charles Rasmussen

Albert Sonnberger

James Stauber

Patrick Umberger

Raymond J. Wagner

Two were identified as being from another order or diocese, but whose allegation occurred while service the Diocese of La Crosse:

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Five more were identified as non-diocesan clergy whose whose names appear on a list in another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse has no specific information relating to the allegations.

Those clergy are:

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

Orville Munie

Joseph Smetana

Francis Zimmerer

Callahan said, “The list of names of clergy with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse, found on the Protect and Heal page on our website, will remain public and up-to-date: Names will be added if and when future allegations are sufficiently confirmed. As promised and as needed, prudent transparency has replaced unacceptable secrecy.”

The list was published after an independent audit of all clergy files dating back to 1868 by the audit firm Defenbaugh & Associates Inc.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties: Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

In his letter, Callahan pledged support for victims.

“As your Bishop, I commit to openness and transparency. I encourage all victims to come forward as we offer our willingness and ability to assist in the healing process. I pledge my continued efforts to protect against future abuse. I promise that every future allegation will be addressed professionally and thoroughly.

“May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.”

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