The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee made public Monday, July 1 thousands of documents detailing the abuse of children and teens by 42 priests in Southeastern Wisconsin, including at least seven priests who served locally.
It's the first time the accused priests' personnel records have been seen publicly, part of an agreement with the archdiocese in bankruptcy proceedings.
The archdiocese sought Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court about three years ago, minimizing its liability in pending sex abuse lawsuits. Victims hope the documents will show that the archdiocese defrauded them and support their allegations that the church knowingly moved abusive priests around without disclosing their full histories and allowing them to abuse again.
Franklyn Becker, laicized (defrocked) in 2004
Holy Assumption Parish in West Allis, 1964-1968
St. John DeNepomuc Parish in Milwaukee, 1968-1972
Holy Family Parish in Whitefish Bay, 1972-1974
St. William Parish in Waukesha, 1974-1975
St. Margaret Mary Parish in Milwaukee, 1979-1980
St. Joseph Parish in Lyons, 1980-1980
St. John Parish in South Milwaukee, 1980-1980
St. Eugene Parish in Fox Point, 1980-1981
St. Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee, 1983-1984
West Allis Memorial Hospital in West Allis, 1984-1991
Franklyn Becker was appointed associate pastor at St. William Parish, August 1972, having left Holy Family Parish in Whitefish Bay after less than four months. In a letter to then Chancellor Robert Sampon, Becker said his appointment to Holy Family Parish was not, 'the most desirable assignment,' citing unstated newspaper publicity the Parish was receiving.
A mother would later allege in a 1994 letter to Archbishop Rembert Weakland that an unnamed parish priest in Whitefish Bay, whom her family had welcomed into their heart, had abused her sons. Several alleged acts of groping and humiliation from 1965 to 1973 would surface after Becker was restricted from ministry in 2001.
Another report surfaced in 2002. An individual said that Becker had sexually abused him over a number of years. beginning in 1965 or 1966 when he was 8 or 9 years old. The abuse continued until 1972 or 1973, while the individual was at Holy Family grade school in Whitefish Bay.
'As I later found out, this priest had a record in his previous parish and after leaving Whitefish Bay, continued on his merry way in parish after parish,' the letter reads.
Becker seemed to be unhappy at St. William Parish and left after less than a year to serve as campus minister at Marshall University in Huntington, W. Va. According to a letter sent to Archbishop William Cousins in November 1974, Becker used his pulpit to attack living conditions at the church's rectory in Waukesha. The letter, sent by a nun at the parish, states: 'Whether his recital of grievances had any basis or not, he surely did everyone a great injustice by speaking as he did about the parish's pastor on Vocation Sunday.'
Becker was first accused of an 'undefined problem' in a handwritten note sent in 1976, while the priest was campus minister at Marshall University. According to the note, a mother wished to speak to someone regarding her son.
Becker struggled with celibacy after he left the Waukesha Parish, according to a 1981 letter. He bounced around to several colleges before being appointed associate pastor at St. Margaret Parish, Milwaukee, in 1979. Six months after his appointment, Becker sent a letter to then Weakland stating he had become 'involved' with a man in the parish, age unspecified. He wrote: '...the frequent presence of teenage boys in the house at night was tantalizing, to say the least,' and suggested several potential appointments in Milwaukee and California.
Another man would come forward in 1993, stating he was abused at St. Margaret Parish by Becker in 1977, after he had graduated high school. Vecker denied the allegations and said the man, who had threatened to kill Vecker, was 'very disturbed.'
Becker was sent to a psychologist, but discontinued treatment shortly thereafter.
In 1981, while associate pastor at St. John Parish, Milwaukee, Becker was accused of inappropriately touching a church member's son during swimming lessons. Becker denied the accusations and the parents were placated, according to a vicar log, but the writer noted that he was confident Becker's judgment was poor.
'After meeting with the parents, however, I decided to not press the issue at this point,' the writer states.
The following year, Becker accepted a chaplaincy on a one-week Caribbean cruise and brought a seventh-grade boy along, with the mother's approval, according to a chaplain's notes. Becker denied having any sexual contact with the boy but they did share the same bed.
Becker was placed on 'sick leave' in 1983, during which time he received a psychological assessment. The assessment, recorded in a vicar log, states that Becker clearly had a gay orientation and that, unless he was able to control himself, there would be a definite likelihood past behavior who continue.
Becker remained in contact with the boy he took on the Caribbean cruise, despite church wishes, and also sent letters to another boy, according to the documents.
Becker was appointed chaplain at West Allis Memorial Hospital in November 1984, so as to minimize Becker's contact with children. However, problems persisted. A 1990 vicar log note indicates that a mother was concerned, saying Becker had been calling her son, a patient at the hospital, and driving by the family's home.
Becker denied the allegations and was appointed to another six years as chaplain. However, hospital administrators and priests in the district asked that another person be assigned.
Becker was officially unassigned to any parish or hospital after 1993, but continued to serve part-time in a restricted capacity. Following a 2001 allegation of sex abuse, which was said to take place in 1980 or 1981, Becker was restricted from all public ministry.
In May 2003, Becker was arrested for sex assault on a warrant issued in California. Dolan said in a letter requesting that Becker be defrocked that the alleged abuse took place in the 1970s in San Diego. Normally, the statute of limitations would make prosecution impossible, but because he left the jurisdiction of the state, it remained a prosecutable offense.
Becker, after refusing to voluntarily return to the lay state, was defrocked by Vatican officials in October 2004.
George Hopf, deceased in 2004
St. Joseph Parish in Milwaukee/Wauwatosa, 1949-1954
St. John de Nepomuc Parish in Milwaukee, 1954-1962
St. Mary Parish in Waukesha, 1962-1966
St. Mary Parish in South Milwaukee, 1966-1968
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in West Allis, 1968-1968
Holy Rosary Parish in Milwaukee, 1968-1969
St. John The Baptist Parish in Woodhull, 1969-1971
St. Peter Claver Parish in Sheboygan, 1971-1976
George Hopf was appointed assistant priest for St. Mary's Parish in Waukesha in June 1962, having previously served as St. John Nepomuc in Milwaukee. While serving in Milwaukee, he was awarded the position of Spiritual Director of the Catholic Youth Organization, Division 4, by Archbishop William Cousins.
The year following his appointment at the Waukesha Parish, he was named an instruction of Religion at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha. That appointment would be continued in 1964.
Hopf seemed to have difficulties working with church officials. C.A. Altenbach, parish pastor at St. Mary's in Milwaukee where Hopf was an assistant, took egregious offense with Hopf's appointment, saying in a 1967 letter that he '...shoots life into trouble, causing it to live on.'
'18 years ordained, he is uncivil and discourteous, independent and undependable, untrustworthy and untruthful, arbitrary and unpredictable, dirty and disorderly, at cross-currents and cross-purposes consistently, and subversively insubordinate,' he wrote.
Altenbach described Hopf's behavior as 'strange' and told Cousins, 'we must do all we can to prevent further harm to souls.'
Hopf was transferred to Holy Rosary Parish in Milwaukee, where the first reported incident of abuse was said to occur. In 2002, a woman handed a note to Archbishop Rembert Weakland stating that she was abused in 1969 by Hopf when she was 12 years old. Abuse included vaginal penetration with fingers and fondling, according to a sex abuse intake report.
She said her parents reported the incident to police, but Hopf was simply transferred to another parish. Church officials investigated but said they could find no police documentation regarding the incident.
Another woman would report in 2002 that Hopf fondled her from 1963-1969 when she was between the ages of 3 and 6. No other information was included in the intake report.
Hopf could not be confronted about the report in 2002 because a stroke had left him unable to speak.
Hopf later went on to serve as pastor at St. Peter Claver in Sheboygan. Daniel Budzynski, another priest accused of child sex abuse, would be named his assistant priest in November 1972.
In May 1973, vicar logs indicate allegations of 'wrong doing' had surfaced. Budzynski denied being involved, but both priests said it was uncautious to have so many children around the rectory. Budzynski is pursuing therapy to address his issues, the vicar log notes.
However, by September 1973, Archbishop William Cousins had asked Budzynski to seek treatment and leave the Sheboygan parish. Hopf defended Budzynski, telling a church official that the associate priest had not beein 'acting out' his problem and there had been no complaints from parishioners.
Hopf suffered a debilitating stroke in September 1975 and was granted retirement from the church in May 1976. Because of his condition and his inability to serve the ministry, church officials requested in 2002 that instead of defrocking, Hopf should be condemned to live out the remainder of his life in prayer and penance.
The church reached a $50,000 settlement with one of the victims in July 2004.
Hopf died in October 2004.
Donald Peters, laicized (defrocked) in 2007
St. Michael Parish in Milwaukee, 1950-1950
St. Clement Parish in Sheboygan, 1950-1960
St. Mary Parish in Fond du Lac, 1962-1967
Catholical Memorial High School in Waukesha, 1967-1969
St. Paul Parish in Fond du Lac, 1969-1971
St. Mary Parish in Sheboygan Falls, 1971-1977
St. Clement Parish in Sheboygan, 1977-1993
Donald Peters was appointed by Archbishop William Cousins associate pastor of Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha in 1967. Peters had previously expressed interest in working with young people in a May 1962 letter to Cousins. Peters was then teaching and counseling at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee and was teaching grade school at St. Mary Parish School in Fond du Lac. Peters was also heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America, according to a 2002 sex abuse intake report.
In 2002, after a report of sexual abuse surfaced, the Sheboygan Sheriff's Department would seize Peters' computer. Nothing was found on the device, but Peters admitted there were instances of sexual contact with minors in his past.
In February 1971, Peters sent a cryptic letter to a church official saying he wanted to speak in person. He cautioned the official against speaking through letters and said the head of the religion department had 'told [him] some things.'
Less than a month later, Peters requested, and was granted, a reassignment to another parish. He said that his reason for moving were personal and that he had discussed it with a church official who agreed the decision was 'prudent.'
Former Archbishop Timothy Dolan said in a 2005 letter to the Vatican that it appeared some inappropriate behavior occurred, but 'the usual response was to quietly see that the priest left his place of assignment.'
Peters was named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Sheboygan Falls in August 1971. He would transfer to St. Clement Parish in Sheboygan in 1977. In 1982, he was named chaplain to the boy scouts, a title he held until his retirement in 1993.
A few months before he retired, an anonymous man called the Sheboygan District Attorney's Office and accused Peters of abusing him as a boy in 1959-1960. The DA's office said that the call was confusing and without specifics. Peters denied the claim, but Bishop Richard Sklba still refused to write a letter supporting his planned boy scouting trip to Santa Fe.
A 2002 letter that appears to be sent from the same man says that Peters groped him when he was 15 years old and showed him pornographic pictures.
'...the events of 43 years ago will be forever etched in my mind,' he wrote.
Peters wrote a letter dated May 22, 2002 to the man apologizing for his actions.
Following his retirement, Peters continued serving with the Boy Scouts, though he complained in a January 1995 letter that his activity was reduced 'very dramatically.'
In 1998, a chancellor at the Archdiocese of Orlando asked for a letter endorsing Peters to help out at a local church in Florida. Milwaukee Archdiocese Rembert Weakland told the chancellor that in 1992 several men in their thirties called and said they were molested by Peters while involved in the Boy Scouts. The men refused to provide their names and the claims were never substantiated. Weakland sent a second letter to the Orlando Archbishop saying that there had been only one anonymous call. Regardless, the Orlando Archdiocese forbade Peters from excercising public ministry.
In 2002, a police investigation was launched by the Sheboygan Police Department. Peters' computer was seized, but nothing improper was found. Peters still admitted that incidents of sexual abuse had occurred in the past, including in 1971.
In October 2007, a request to be laicized, or defrocked, was granted.
Oswald Krusing, deceased in 1995
Sacred Heart Parish in Sun Prairie, 1927-1927
St. Victor Parish in Monroe, 1927-1928
Immaculate Conception Parish in Milwaukee, 1928-1930
Holy Redeemer Parish in Madison, 1930-1931
St. Joseph Parish in Waukesha, 1931-1933
Holy Rosary Parish in Kenosha, 1933-1934
St. John The Baptist Parish in Clyman, 1934-1935
St. Joseph Parish in Lyons, 1935-1939
St. Stephen Parish in New Coelm/Milwaukee, 1939-1941
Holy Apostles Parish in New Berlin, 1944-1956
Sacred Heart Parish in St. Francis, 1956-1958
Holy Name Parish in Racine, 1958-1964
St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Milwaukee, 1964-1966
St. Rita Parish in West Allis, 1966-1970
Archbishop Samuel Stritch was alerted in 1934 to reports of misconduct by Krusing, including drinking and spreading gossip. In 1941, Krusing is granted indefinite leave by the Archbishop so that he could become a Cistercian monk in Rhode Island. He returns a year later, according to a 1942 letter, and asked to return to the Archdiocese. In a 1942 letter, Krusing expresses interest in becoming a military chaplain, but church officials reject the idea.
In 1947 Kusing, then a priest at Holy Apostles Parish in New Berlin, is accused of molesting a young girl. The girl's uncle said in a letter to church officials that Kusing ordered his 14-year-old niece to strip down to her waist. He then fondled her breasts and tried to rape her, but she resisted. He relented, but told her that if she said anything about it she would go to Hell.
There were also rumors, the uncle said, that he had done the same to other girls and had been caught once before with an underage girl.
The girl's father writes, in an undated letter, that there were 20 girls molested by the priest, and described several instances himself.
'We took this man into our homes as one of the family and what does he do? He wrecks our homes, our families - the lives of our dear ones - our children,' the father writes.
The father told church officials he did not want to involve the police, out of concern for the girls innocence, but he would create scandal if he were not removed from the parish.
No apparent action was taken by the church or the father.
Other parishioners wrote in a 9-page letter in July 1955 that Krusing had a disturbing preoccupation with sex. Among other things, he told girls as young as 9 years old that they were 'filthy, messy beings' whose sole purpose was satisfying men. He told mothers that girls wearing shorts were to blame if they were raped by teenage boys.
In June 1956, Krusing was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in St. Francis.
In his appointment letter, the Archbishop thanked Krusing for his 'fine work' at Holy Apostles.
In September 1956, Krusing is named ordinary confessor for the students at St. Francis Minor Seminary.
In 1962, after being appointed pastor at Holy Name Parish in Racine, Krusing is accused of molesting a 10-year-old girl over the span of two years. The girl's father contacted a lawyer, who sent a letter in March 1962 to Archbishop William Cousins detailing the actions. According to the letter, the father confronted the priest, asking why he, 'painted the girl black.' Krusing spoke of human weakness and denied sexually molesting the girl.
Less than a month later, Krusing sent a letter to Reverend Roman Atkielski saying that he was to take a 'vacation' to a Trappist monastery.
'Since you placed great emphasis upon my departure before the end of the week, I presume that I cannot wait longer than tomorrow morning, Friday,' Krusing wrote. Krusing reassured the reverend in a second letter that the family was very religious and would, 'not damage the church or the priesthood.'
In April 1962, Krusing tells church officials that he had a clinical psychology test done and that the results were satisfactory. He complains of being lonely at the monastery and asks for a parish when he returns to Milwaukee.
In April 1963, he is named chaplain at Notre Dame Infirmary in Elm Grove. A year later he is appointed pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Milwaukee.
According to a 1996 document, Krusing was 'good friends' with Monsignor Francis Beres, who is believed to have arranged the priest's reassignment.
'I am happy that you accepted the assignment, knowing that a growing parish is in good hands,' the Archbishop told Krusing after the appointment.
In January 1970 Krusing put in a request for retirement after numerous parishioner complaints were filed with the St. Rita Parish Council. Parshioners complained he was an 'egotistical maniac,' obsessed with sex, overly conscious of women's legs and refused to hire qualified teachers, among other things.
His retirement was accepted by Archbishop Cousins, who congratulated Krusing on his good work.
'Our personal relationships have been such as to make my own expression of gratitude one that is sincere and heartfelt,' Cousins wrote.
Krusing died in 1995. In the years that followed, three women would come forward saying that Krusing fondled, molested and raped them over a number of years during his time as a priest.
One woman said that she had tried to report the abuse to a nun her senior year of high school, but was told she was lying and must have seduced the priest. She said she told others, including Bishop Richard Sklba in the 1980s, but nothing was ever done about it.
Barbara Reinke, psychologist for the church, told the woman times had changed.
'I attempted to explain to [redacted] that in the 1950s and 1960s, and even in the 1980s when [redacted] first reported this incident to Bishop Sklba, sexual abuse was not handled the same way that it is now,' she said.
Michael Neuberger, full restrictions in 2010
St. Philip Neri Parish in Milwaukee, 1962-1964
St. Boniface Parish in Milwaukee, 1964-1968
Messmer High School in Milwaukee, 1968-1969
Thomas More High School in St. Francis, 1973-1978
UW-Parkside Campus Ministry in Kenosha, 1978-1979
St. Francis De Sales in Lake Geneva, 1979-1980
St. Dominic Parish in Sheboygan, 1980-1981
St. John Neuman Parish in Waukesha, 1981-1993
St. Catherine Parish in Milwaukee/Granville, 1993-1993
After a third victim came forward in 1993 alleging sexual abuse by Michael Neuberger, church officials asked him how many court cases may be filed against him.
'It became apparent that Father Neuberger by his own admission had a personal pattern over many years of his ministry in which he had any number of personal relationships of all kinds with minors, including the care of multiple foster children,' a sex abuse report states.
Investigators also note: '...it is the professional opinion of the three evaluators that what is reported in the following account is likely to be only a portion of the true scope of Father Neuberger's sexual activity over his life as a priest of the Archiodiocese of Milwaukee.'
The report states Neuberger admitted to having consensual homosexual experiences before going into the seminary. While training to be a priest, Neuberger said he was considered sexually naive because he could not tell when other priests were 'coming on' to him.
In 1961, while still in seminary, Neuberger was a volunteer at St. Joseph's Orphanage. The orphanage was run by Eldred Lisienewski, another Milwaukee priest accused of systemic sexual abuse, and the two men might have shared victims, investigators suggested in the report.
Neuberger admitted to behavior which may be inappropriate, including allowing a 12- or 13-year-old boy to sleep in his bed (He described it as 'pleasant') and taking another child on an overnight trip to Minneapolis. He denied in both instances touching the orphans, but admitted that a child had masturbated him while he slept.
Neuberger would claim several times throughout the report that sexual contact was initiated by children, not him. He was a 'morally justified victim,' in his own mind, investigators said in the report.
Children had also tried reporting to Neuberger Father Lisienewski's sexual transgressions, he admits, but he did not report them.
He also worked at summer camps while in seminary school and he was, 'always taking kids on trips,' particularly the ones who seemed picked on or left out, according to the report. *crying*
He took two children, ages 6 and 7, on a trip to Chicago, where they shared a bed, Neuberger said. One of those children would file a lawsuit against Neuberger in February 1994, alleging that Neuberger had 'harmful sexual contact' with him when he was 17 years old at St. Boniface Parish in Milwaukee. Neuberger denied the claim.
During his first assignment at St. Phillip Neri Parish in Milwaukee, Neuberger admitted to taking a group of juniors and seniors in High School on a boat trip. There was no other chaperone and Neuberger admitted to 'de-pantsing' and painting designs on a child's buttocks. He also slept with some children in the back of his car, but denied sexual contact.
In July 1964, Neuberger was assigned to St. Boniface Parish in Milwaukee. In 1965, he admitted to performing oral sex on a man in the rectory after a confession. He said the experience, 'opened up an area in me,' according to the report.
He had genital contact with the man after that, but claimed it was, 'non-sexual.' The man would later report the incident to Neuberger's pastor, Eugene Bleidorn. Bleidorn allegedly told Neuberger, 'society is not ready for this,' according to the report.
It was also at St. Boniface Parish that Neuberger became involved with six black children he referred to as, 'his family.' One of those boys would later file a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse.
Neuberger said that he would also invite underage boys to speak outside of confession about issues and would provide hands-on 'sex education' to them, according to the report.
Neuberger said he started a sexual relationship with an underage male while at St. Boniface that lasted two years, beginning in 1967. Neuberger said that he performed oral sex on the boy and masturbated him. They lived together after the boy entered college, but broke up because the man was interested in girls.
Neuberger claimed he never had sex with 'white kids' after St. Boniface, according to the report.
Another man filed suit against Neuberger saying that from 1965-1967 he was sexually abused while at St. Boniface. Neuberger claimed that the boy was of age when they had sexual contact.
Michael Neuberger, while 'in residence' at St. Gall Parish rectory in 1972, wrote in a letter to Archbishop William Cousins that he refused to vacate living quarters, despite a request that he do so. He argued that he was placed at the parish because Cousins told him that his background at St. Boniface would make him a 'financial liability.'
'I regret it has taken me so long to learn, 'what is not in writing does not exist,'' Neuberger wrote in the letter. It is unclear who he is quoting.
From 1968 to 1969, Neuberger said he had sexual relationships with several women, including a nun. With the last woman, a camp counselor, he said he could not perform sexually ('Nothing worked').
In 1977, while at Thomas More Catholic School, Neuberger said he 'cuddled' with a student who came to talk in his personal quarters. The boy told another priest, who told Neurberger that he should contact an unidentified person because, 'he has a lot of respect for you.'
In 1978, Neuberger became a Catholic campus minister at UW-Parkside. Five boys lived with him while he stayed there, all foster children from Kenosha County.
He said that altogether, 13 boys stayed with him while he was at UW-Parkside, including six 'family' members from St. Boniface. Two of those boys later reported sexual abuse by Neuberger, though he denies it, according to the report.
Neuberger would have a group of boys staying with him for the rest of his time in the church. At St. John Neumann Parish in Waukesha, where he served from 1981 to 1993, he said boys would stay overnight at his house, but there was no sexual contact. In 1989, Bishop Richard Sklba received a letter alleging that Neurberger made sexual advances against a boy in 1981.
Neurberger admitted to flagrant gay sex after 1977. He said he picked up prostitutes and hitchhikers, had sex in Milwaukee parks and frequented gay bars. Neuberger admitted that he was in a long-term relationship at the time of the interview with a man.
The church investigators concluded in the report that there were likely more instances of abuse that Neuberger had not revealed.
In 1998, after several more victims came forward claiming abuse, the Church sought to dismiss Neuberger through tribunal. He was originally found guilty and removed as a priest, however, he appealed the decision. In 2004, the Vatican Court ruled that charges of sexual abuse of children and illicit behavior were unproven.
An unnamed church official sent a letter titled 'Bad News from ROTA' announcing the news to then Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
'This creates about as difficult an outcome as could have happened,' the official writes. 'With this Neuberger could (as inaccurate as it might be) assert that he has been exonerated of all of the sex-abuse related accusations.'
The church official worried in the letter that Neuberger would go public with his supposed exoneration. Instead of appealing the decision, Dolan chose to severely restrict Neuberger's freedom, ordering that he was to cease all public ministry and avoid all places, persons and situations where abuse was alleged to occur.
deceased in 2001
St. Mary Parish in Menomonee Falls, 1974-1981
St. Mary Parish in Waukesha, 1983-1989
The earliest document that references Bandle's history of abuse, dated February 1989, is a letter written by Bandle himself to an unidentified person. Bandle states in the letter that he will not contact a family before transferring from St. Mary Parish in Waukesha, because of concerns about opening 'old wounds.'
'I feel, and I believe Dr. [redacted] would concur, that I have brought this episode in my life to a close and hope that the family has also been able to get on with their lives,' the letter states.
What Bandle is apologizing for is not made clear in the letter.
A letter sent to Archbishop Rembert Weakland indicates that Bishop Richard Sklba was made aware in August 1987 that Bandle was involved in an inappropriate relationship with an individual, age 20 or 21.
In October 1992, Sklba met with Bandle, who admitted to having relationships with a 15-year-old from Menomonee Falls and a 12-year-old from Waukesha. No other information was provided in the documents.
Weakland told Bandle in a 1993 letter that he could not assign him to any other ministry following his departure from Sacred Heart. Bandle would still be provided $650 in monthly living expenses and would continue to receive insurance coverage.
In February 1995, at the recommendation of Bandle's therapist, Bandle was allowed to return to the ministry in a limited capacity and under surveillance.
From 1996 until he died, Bandle worked in a limited capacity at St. Joseph Parish in Lyons.
David Hanser, laicized (defrocked) in 2005
Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha 1961-1970
St. Mary Parish in Pewaukee, 1982-1988
Hanser's recorded allegations began in July of 1988 when Bishop Richard Sklba was contacted by a woman who reported that her siblings were assaulted while he was a faculty member at Catholic Memorial High School and St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Brookfield. One sibling reported attempted sexual contact in 1969 when the individual was 18 or 19. A second sibling reported one forcible sexual contact in 1970 or 1971 when the individual was a junior in high school. A third sibling reported 25 to 40 forced encounters with Hanser, from 1968 to 1973, when the individual was ages 11 to 16. This family, the Ramstacks, have since gone public.
Documents just released show Sklba first placed Hanser on administrative leave at St. Mary's and removed him in November of that year, saying, 'I met with Dave to review his current status, and insisted that it was impossible for him to return to St. Mary parish in Pewaukee.' Hanser resigned and became classified as 'awaiting assignment.'
Subsequent claims, in the documents, show a pattern where Hanser became friends with the entire family and subsequently invited male children to his lake cottage (on Moose Lake in Nashotah) where the assaults took place. Two separate families, in particular, reported abuse on multiple siblings over the years — one Waukesha family and one Pewaukee family.
That July 1988 meeting is the first report of sexual assault currently acknowledged by the church, but Sklba also disclosed that a letter was found in Bishop Brust's locked drawer sometime in 1989, dated 1975, from the Rev. Donald Weber to an earlier parishioner referencing her report — that Hanser took a teenage boy to his cottage and 'went to bed with the boy and touched him indecently.'
Between 1968 and 1985, there are 11 reported victims (ages 11-18) from parishes in Waukesha, Pewaukee and Kenosha acknowledged in the newly released archdiocese documents. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) estimates at least 17 people have come forward.
After investigations began in 1988, Hanser resigned from public ministry, but was permitted to provide chaplain services, with restrictions, at St. Joseph's Hospital. He retired in 2002, the same year the District Attorney Paul Bucher of Waukesha County ordered criminal investigations into Hanser's ministry.
Hanser continued to receive monthly pension checks and health benefits from the church, documents said. The Archdiocese also noted that Hanser was 'independently wealthy with a luxury home and automobile and considerable assets.'
Bucher was unable to prosecute in 2003, citing the statute of limitations, but he pointed out that 'there is no doubt in my mind, based upon the review, that David Hanser assaulted these young boys and has caused them significant harm. I wish I could hold him criminally responsible, but unfortunately, I cannot.'
Hanser was laicized or defrocked in 2005. The documents showed that Dolan asked for Hanser's involuntary dismissal from the clerical state in 2004, but adds in a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that Hanser would continue to receive his pension. Hanser signed the laicization decree, adding that his signature is not an acceptance of laicization but he would abide by its effects.
A settlement was reached with the Ramstack family out of court, but a civil suit was filed in 2002 when the family learned Hanser was working at St. Joseph's hospital. Hanser similarly filed a counter-claim the same year because the family spoke publicly.