#childabuse | Diocese of La Crosse releases list of clergy accused of child sexual abuse

Video from the Diocese of La Crosse

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – The Diocese of La Crosse released a list of members of the clergy that have had credible allegations of child sexual abuse made against them.

The list contains 25 names. It is broken down into three sections: Diocesan clergy (18), Non-Diocesan clergy with a substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse (2), and Non-Diocesan clergy who spent time in the diocese and whose name appears on a list in another diocese or religious order (5).

Each person on the list had either a single or multiple allegations of abuse according to the diocese. Details on where the abuse occurred were not released.

They defined an allegation as “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 stated that none of the people listed are in public ministry.

In fact, fifteen of the eighteen listed in the Diocesan Clergy section have passed away.

One of the clergy on the list, Father Patrick Umberger, was arrested in 2010 on a charge of possession of child pornography. He died later that year.

The list is the end work of an external audit done by a Texas firm, Defenbaugh & Associates, Inc. The diocese said that they are a firm comprised of retired FBI agents.

Here is the list:

Diocesan Clergy:
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

Non-Diocesan clergy with a substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Non-Diocesan clergy who spent time in the diocese and whose name appears on a list in another diocese or religious order

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

Orville Munie

Joseph Smetana

Francis Zimmerer


As part of the release of information, Bishop William Patrick Callahan issued a letter that will be read at all weekend Masses in the diocese.

Here is the letter:

Pastoral letter from Bishop William Patrick Callahan regarding clergy disclosures
18 January 2020

My dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

The Protect and Heal initiative of the Diocese of La Crosse, our response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, now includes a most essential ingredient: the disclosure of the names of clergy with a substantiated allegation 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 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 Diocese of La Crosse’s Protect and Heal initiative is now about moving forward. Details can be found on our website, including contacts, reporting procedures, safe environment training, support for those who have been harmed, and more. Many of these measures have been in place for years and they have been effective for years.

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.

+Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse


More Information: Diocese of La Crosse


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