Friday, September 25, 2020

Clergy accused of sexual abuse had ties to local parishes

Seven of the 25 priests accused of sexual abuse, whose names were released by the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse last Saturday, had ties to nearby parishes and the Tomah Veterans Hospital.

The La Crosse diocese serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties, including Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

The list was published following an independent audit of all clergy files dating back to 1868. None of the accused clergy on the list remains in public ministry and many are deceased, according to the diocese. Those who worked in local parishes include:

• Thomas Dempsey, who was ordained in 1955 and was assigned at one time to St. Mary’s in Bangor. He had multiple substantiated allegations against him. He died in 1998.

• James Ennis, who was ordained in 1950, and was assigned at one time to St. Patrick, Elroy; St. Aloysius, Hillsboro; and St. John the Baptist, Wilton. He has multiple substantiated allegations against him. He died on 2000.

• Tom Garthwaite, who was ordained in1955. Among his several pastoral assignments were St. Patrick, Sparta (St. Mary Hospital), and St. Joseph, Kendall – St. Patrick, Elroy – St. John the Baptist, Wilton. He has multiple substantiated allegations against him. He was removed from ministry in Jan. 2004.

• Garland Muller, who was ordained in 1938. He was assigned at one time to St. John the Baptist, Wilton and has multiple substantiated allegations. He died in 1978.

• Raymond J. Wagner, who was ordained in 1952. Among his pastoral assignments were St. Joseph, Black River Falls; St. Joseph, Kendall; and St. Patrick, Sparta. He has multiple substantiated allegations against him. He died in 2009.

• Timothy Svea, who was ordained in 1992. He was assigned at one time to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary’s Ridge; and the Veterans Administration Hospital, Tomah. He has multiple substantiated allegations against him. His last assignment in the Diocese of La Crosse was Nov. 2000.

• Francis Zimmerer, who has no date of ordination available, was assigned at one time to the Veterans Administration Hospital, Tomah. Since he was non-diocesan clergy, the La Crosse Diocese is unaware if he has single or multiple substantiated allegations against him. He died in 1983.

The release of the list was timed to coincide with a pastoral letter from Bishop William Patrick Callahan, which was read at all Masses last weekend throughout the diocese. 

In it, he  referred to the “Protect and Heal” initiative of the Diocese of La Crosse, Which is the diocese’s response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. He said the disclosure of the names of clergy with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse is its most essential ingredient.

“The disclosure of names is an important step: the Church must again confess to this evil and pledge our prayers and support to all victims and their families,” he said in the letter. “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.”

He went on to say, “As promised and as needed, prudent transparency has replaced unacceptable secrecy. 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.”

The list of clergy members with substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse can be found on the Protect and Heal page of the La Crosse Diocese website. According to Callahan, it will remain public and up-to-date and names will be added if and when future allegations are sufficiently confirmed. 

 

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