The Diocese of La Crosse releases names of 25 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse

The+Diocese+of+La+Crosse.+Photo+retrieved+from+Google+Maps.

The Diocese of La Crosse. Photo retrieved from Google Maps.

Sam Stroozas, Executive Editor

The Diocese of La Crosse released the names of 25 clergy members who have faced substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse. None of them are currently in public ministry.

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

The Diocese of La Crosse was established in 1868 and serves 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.

The 19 counties in the Diocese of La Crosse.

The Diocese has provided a website split into six parts, the Clergy Disclosures, Bishop William Patrick Callahan’s letter that will be read at Mass this weekend, a Q&A, how to report an incident, training and other resources. The Bishop also released a video speaking about the clergy members.

An allegation is defined 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 judgement.”

The website explains that even if a specific parish is on the list, this does not mean that the act of abuse occurred at this parish, but that a priest on the list once served at that parish.

The names of the accused are divided into three categories: Diocesan clergy, Non-Diocesan clergy with substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse and Non-Diocesan clergy who spent time in the Diocese of La Crosse whose name appears on a list in another diocese or religious order.

18 of those identified were a priest or deacon who was incardinated in the Diocese of La Crosse. The allegations against these 18 individuals involved conduct occurring in the Diocese of La Crosse or conduct while they were incardinated in the Diocese.

The names are as follows:

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 diocese or order but their allegation occurred while they were in service for the Diocese of La Crosse.

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

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

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

Orville Munie

Joseph Smetana

Francis Zimmerer

Of the 25, seven are still living:

Tom Garthwaite, ordained on May 14, 1955. There are multiple allegations against him and he was removed from ministry on Jan. 12, 2004. His past pastoral assignments include: St. Joseph Hospital, Arcadia, St. Anthony de Padua, Augusta – St. John the Apostle, Fall Creek, St. Anthony, Drywood, Sacred Heart, Jim Falls, St. Joseph, Kendall – St. Patrick, Elroy – St. John the Baptist, Wilton, Sacred Heart, Marshfield, St. Patrick, Mauston – Madonna High School, St. Patrick, Sparta – St. Mary Hospital, St. Stephen, Stevens Point.

James E. Mason, ordained on April 27, 1967. There are multiple allegations against him and he was laicized on Jan. 19, 2004. His past pastoral assignments include: McDonell High School, Chippewa Falls, Immaculate Conception, Eau Claire – Regis High School, Newman Center, Eau Claire – Regis High School, St. Joseph the Workman, La Crosse, St. Pius X, La Crosse, Roncalli Newman, La Crosse, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Richland Center.

Albert Sonnberger, ordained on Oct 7, 1956. There is a single allegation against him and he has been inactive in ministry since Nov. 20, 2018. His past pastoral assignments include: Notre Dame, Chippewa Falls, St. Charles Borromeo, Chippewa Falls, St. John the Baptist, Cooks Valley, Blessed Sacrament, La Crosse, Diocese of La Crosse, Curia Staff, St. James the Less, La Crosse – Aquinas High School, St. Joseph the Workman, La Crosse, St. Peter, Middle Ridge, St. Philip, Soldiers Grove – St. Martin, Boaz, St. Peter, Tilden.

Timothy Svea, ordained on Nov. 11, 1992. There are multiple allegations against him and his last assignment in the Diocese of La Crosse was Nov. 2000. His past pastoral assignments include: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Mary’s Ridge, Veterans Administration Hospital, Tomah, St. Mary’s Oratory, Wausau.

Bogdan Werra, ordained on May 7, 1981. There is a single allegation against him and he was suspended from the Diocese of La Crosse on Nov. 14, 1994. His past pastoral assignments include: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Keyesville, St. Killian, Bear Valley – Sacred Heart, Lone Rock – St. Anthony de Padua Parish, Cazenovia, St. Peter, Stevens Point.

Daniel Budzynski, date of ordination is unknown. There are multiple allegations against him per Archdiocese of Milwaukee and he was laicized in Oct. 2004. His past pastoral assignments include: Newman Parish, Eau Claire, Newman Parish, Stevens Point.

Joseph Smetana, date of ordination is unknown. The number of allegations is unknown and he was permanently removed from ministry. His past pastoral assignments include: St. Henry, Eau Galle.

In his letter, Bishop William Patrick Callahan explains why the names have been released and how this will impact the diocese:

Bishop William Patrick Callahan. Photo retrieved from his recently published video about the clergy members accused of child sexual abuse.

“This 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. 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!*”

The Diocese of La Crosse created a report form for anyone who is wishing to report an allegation of sexual abuse by any diocesan agent including a bishop, priest, deacon, employee, vendor or volunteer. The report form should be mailed to Karen Becker, or you can email her at [email protected]

*Italics not added by The Racquet Press

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