Questions and Answers Regarding Clergy Disclosures

Q: What information are you releasing on this list?

A: This list contains the names of diocesan clergy, or clergy who have served in the 19 counties of the Diocese of La Crosse, against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been substantiated.  For diocesan clerics, and where available for non-diocesan clerics, it will also list the date of his ordination, status, (date of death, last known status), assignments (including parish/city name), Single or Multiple (referring to substantiated allegations) and the date the cleric was added to the list or last had his entry amended on the list.

Q: What is a “substantiated” allegation?

A: A substantiated allegation is one for which sufficient evidence exists to believe that the abuse occurred.  It is one that is supported by documentation, witness statements, law enforcement, or any other reliable source.  The facts and circumstances that substantiate an allegation vary from case to case. If the accused has admitted to the action giving rise to the allegation, it is a substantiated one.

Q: How is the Diocese of La Crosse disclosing the names of clergy against whom a substantiated allegation of sexually abusing a minor was made while assigned to ministry in the diocese?

A: The Diocese of La Crosse will maintain a list of names on its website under Protect and Heal:  at diolc.org/safe-environment/   The names on the Diocese of La Crosse list are divided into three categories: (1) Diocesan clergy, (2) Non-Diocesan clergy with a substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse, and (3) Non-Diocesan clergy who spent time in the Diocese of La Crosse and whose name appears on a list in another diocese or religious order.

(1) Diocesan clergy: a priest or deacon incardinated in the Diocese of La Crosse, against whom a complaint was filed and found to be substantiated, relating to conduct occurring in the Diocese of La Crosse or while the cleric was incardinated in the Diocese of La Crosse.

(2) Non-Diocesan clergy with a substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse: a priest or deacon who is either from a religious order or from a diocese other than the Diocese of La Crosse, against whom an allegation was filed and found to be substantiated, while the individual was serving in the Diocese of La Crosse. For these names, not all otherwise reported information may be accessible to the Diocese of La Crosse, e.g., date of ordination or assignment history. All information available to the Diocese of La Crosse has been reported.

(3) Non-Diocesan clergy who spent time in the Diocese of La Crosse and whose name appears on a list in another diocese or religious order: a priest or deacon who is either from a religious order or from a diocese other than the Diocese of La Crosse, against whom an allegation was filed and found to be substantiated by another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse would have no specific information relating to the allegation.

The disclosed information includes the following, if known: cleric’s name, last known status or date of death, pastoral assignments (for categories (2) and (3), above, limited to the assignments within the Diocese of La Crosse), whether a Single or Multiple allegation(s) were determined substantiated, and the date of addition of clergy’s name to publication list or date of last modification.

Q: Why did the Diocese of La Crosse decide to disclose the names of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them while they were in ministry?

A: In addition to its long-standing Sexual Misconduct Procedures (Red Book), Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures (Green Book), and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the disclosure is part of a diocesan plan to keep children safe, help victims/survivors of abuse heal, and regain trust and confidence from our communities.

Q: Who conducted the external audit of clergy files?

A: The audit was conducted over several months by the firm of Defenbaugh & Associates, Inc., from Kaufman, Texas, a firm composed of retired agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Q: What was the scope of the audit of clergy files?

A: The scope of the audit was to review all clergy files existing in the Chancery Office of the Diocese of La Crosse. In its review, the auditors identified 1,218 individual files dating back to 1868.

Q. What process does the Diocese of La Crosse follow upon receipt of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy?

A. If the allegation concerns a recent or current act of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric in current ministry, the accused will be removed from ministry and placed on leave during the investigation. Law enforcement is contacted in accordance with diocesan policy. Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy are communicated to the Diocesan Independent Review Board Chair in accordance with the Diocesan Child Sexual Abuse Policies and Procedures and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  The Diocesan Independent Review Board will appoint a case investigator to investigate the allegation. Even if law enforcement authorities determine not to pursue an investigation, the Diocesan Independent Review Board still conducts its own investigation.  The Diocesan Independent Review Board shall prepare a report of its findings for the Diocesan Bishop regarding the review process with its determination as to whether the allegation of child sexual abuse by the person making the complaint against the accused is substantiated. If the allegation is not able to be substantiated, consistent with the recommendation of the Diocesan Independent Review Board, a removed cleric may be returned to active ministry.

Q: Can a priest or deacon against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is made ever be put back into public ministry?

A: No. A priest or deacon against whom a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor has been made cannot return to public ministry.

Q: What does canon law require regarding the removal of abusive clergy from ministry?

A: A priest or deacon who has sexually abused a minor must be removed from ministry immediately and permanently. A bishop who has received a report of sexual abuse of a minor must work with the Holy See in Rome to determine the most appropriate resolution to the priest’s or deacon’s status.  

Q: Will the diocese continue to disclose names of clergy against whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor are substantiated going forward?

A: Yes. If an allegation is substantiated, the diocese will add the name of the priest or deacon to the disclosure section of its website.

Q: Why not make all accusations of sexual abuse of a minor against clergy public?

A: Some allegations, especially ones that were made decades after the reported conduct occurred, simply cannot be substantiated. It would be wrong, and possibly defamatory, to publicize allegations where there is insufficient evidence to establish reasonable grounds to believe that abuse occurred.

Q: What is being done to prevent sexual abuse of children by church personnel?

A: The Diocese of La Crosse has remained in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People since 2002, commonly known as the Dallas Charter, as well as its own Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures, which was last revised in September 2019.    Among other procedures, the policy requires the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to law enforcement. When there is an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy, the allegation is brought before the Diocesan Independent Review Board, and assistance is offered to the victim and family by the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator.

All clergy, employees, religious and volunteers who work with children are required to review both the Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures (Green Book) and the Sexual Misconduct Procedures (Red Book), Red Flags in Adults (A), Red Flags in Children (B), Practical Guidelines for Conduct (C) and 5 steps to a Safe Environment (D), undergo a background check and certify that they have completed an online video training. The Green Book, and all safe environment policies, are available on the diocesan website, along with forms to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

Background Checks: The diocese performs criminal background checks on all clergy, employees, religious, and volunteers who have contact with minors. The background checks are renewed every 3 years. Fingerprinting-based background checks are also required for all paid employees, clergy and volunteer janitors and coaches.

Psychological Testing: Candidates for the priesthood undergo rigorous and extensive psychological testing to assure their fitness for priestly ministry. The Diocese of La Crosse has also adopted two programs that assist young men to be better prepared for their service to the church.  The Journey and Regency programs, of the Diocese of La Crosse, are intense one-year specialized programs that allow individualized work with young men discerning a vocation so they may be better prepared in their knowledge of faith, priestly life and human formation.  These programs, along with the excellent work of the seminaries we choose to send our men to, help ensure the healthiest young men possible for the service to the Church as deacons and priest.

Diocesan Independent Review Board: In accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. Bishops in 2002, the Diocesan Independent Review Board is composed of a majority of laypersons, not employed by the diocese, meets quarterly to review diocesan safe environment policies and to advise the Bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a member of the clergy. The Board is composed of members representing the following areas of professional expertise: mental/behavioral health, health care, law enforcement, legal and education. In addition, one experienced and respected pastor of the Diocese shall be appointed as a regular (voting) member of the Board, consistent with the Charter.

Safe Environment Audits: The Diocesan Safe Environment Office conducts visits to parishes and schools within the diocese to assess how they are implementing safe environment policies, answer questions, and provide guidance regarding best practices. The Diocese of La Crosse has consistently passed national standards in safe environment audits performed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Q: What should a person do if he or she recognizes a name on the disclosure list and has concerns about further risks the cleric may pose?

A: Any concerns should be conveyed first to local law enforcement. In addition, a person with concerns is encouraged to notify the Diocese’s Complaint Intake Agent at 608-791-0179.  To receive pastoral assistance, contact Deacon Tom Skemp, Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 608-792-9684.

Contact Information

Teresa Brown
Director of Safe Environment

Diocese of La Crosse
PO Box 4004
La Crosse, WI 54602-4004

Telephone: 608-791-2679  |  Fax: 608-791-0165

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