Many unknowns remain after Diocese of La Crosse releases child sexual abuse report

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)–The Diocese of La Crosse named clergy with substantiated accusations of child sexual abuse. But many parts are missing from Saturday’s admission, including additional accusations against priests and deacons that we might never know about.

The Diocese of La Crosse identified 25 clergy members allegedly involved in child sexual abuse using an independent audit of church files. That includes 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, Timothy Svea, Bogdan Werra, Dennis Bouche, Daniel Budzynski, Orville Munie, Joseph Smetana and Francis Zimmerer.

The report included Diocesan clergy, non-diocesan clergy with a substantiated allegation in the Diocese of La Crosse, and 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.

Most of the clergy members are now deceased, while others were removed, suspended or laicized. But none are in public ministry, according to the diocese.

While the report said where the priest or deacon served, none note when the abuse occurred. And, most do not say from which pastoral assignment the allegations originated. All of the clergy moved around multiple times with assignments in many parts of the diocese’s 19 county area.

Also missing from the report, an unknown amount of other allegations. On the Diocese’s website, it says some allegations that were made decades after the reported conduct occurred 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,” the Diocese said, in a statement.

But, more names could be disclosed in the future.

“Names will be added if and when future allegations are sufficiently confirmed. As promised and as needed, prudent transparency has replaced unacceptable secrecy,” Bishop Callahan said.

This secrecy may still remain. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse were missing from lists released by the dioceses and religious orders where they served.

“As your Bishop, I commit to openness and transparency,” Bishop Callahan said.

The Bishop said in a message read at all weekend masses that he encourages all victims to come forward. He promised every future allegation will be addressed professionally and thoroughly.

“Victims and their loved ones must no longer suffer in silence and isolation,” Bishop Callahan said.

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