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St. Norbert Abbey identifies 22 priests accused of sexual abuse of children

Priest during mass at church, Photo Date: August 20, 2018 / Photo: Pixabay / (MGN)
Priest during mass at church, Photo Date: August 20, 2018 / Photo: Pixabay / (MGN)
Published: Jul. 19, 2019 at 12:55 PM CDT
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The abbot of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere says an independent review identified 22 Norbertines who had credible accusations of sexually abusing minors.

Rev. Dane Radecki says their superiors have been notified about the findings by Praesidium Inc., which reviewed personnel files from 1966 through 2018.

Nineteen of the priests were from St. Norbert Abbey. The other three were from other Norbertine organizations but were assigned to De Pere at some time.

The report says 17 of the priests are dead, three are restricted from ministry, and two left the abbey and the ministry.

  • Simon Becker (multiple, credible allegations) - Deceased
  • Robert Carson (multiple) - Deceased
  • Francis Clabots (multiple) - Deceased
  • Mark Falcone (one credible allegation) - Restricted from ministry
  • Angelo Feldkamp (multiple) - Deceased
  • Camillus Frigo (multiple) - Left the abbey and ministry
  • Michael Frisch (one) - Restricted from ministry
  • Robert Gaghan (one) - Deceased
  • John Kohnke (multiple) - Deceased
  • Larry Mayer (one) - deceased
  • Francis McHugh (one) - Deceased
  • Michael Kain (one) - Deceased
  • Ernest LaMal (multiple) - Deceased
  • Martin Philipsen (multiple) - Deceased
  • Andrew ("Andy") Polini (one) - Deceased
  • Peter Pritzl (multiple) - Deceased
  • Robert Reppen (one) - Deceased
  • David Rondou (multiple) - Deceased
  • Joseph Rohlinger (one) - Deceased
  • Ralph Schmidt (one) - Deceased
  • Edward Smith (multiple) - Restricted from ministry
  • James Stein (multiple) - Left the Abbey and ministry

Radecki's report on Friday comes six months after the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay released the names of 46 priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse but did not include priests from religious orders, including the Norbertines and Franciscans.

Last fall, Radecki responded to social media posts accusing Norbertines of misconduct, saying there were "no factual basis to the claims" against current Norbertines, but Praesidium was hired in the fall to review past and recent accusations.

The findings show the sexual abuse of children found in the credible claims goes back to the 1940s. The most abuse cases happened in the 1960s -- more than 20 credible allegations -- and 1970s, with 10 cases. A chart on a special abbey's website,

, shows no cases in the 2000s or 2010s.

In a letter on the website, Radecki said he hopes making the names public will help survivors of sexual abuse with their healing, and, "I profoundly apologize and ask forgiveness from those abused by the Norbines of the Abbey."

SNAP is responding to the release of the names, saying it raises more questions than answers.

The group, which represents survivors who have been assaulted by known priests, continue to call on Wisconsin Attorney General, Josh Kaul, to investigate these cases.

"If the Norbertines were serious about justice, they would have immediately turned over all their files to the Attorney General of Wisconsin and the District Attorney of Green Bay. Then, properly redacted to protect victim identities, they would release these files to victims, Catholics and the public," reads part of the statement from SNAP President, Peter Isely.

Letter from the Abbot of St. Norbert Abbey

Dear Confreres & Friends of the Abbey,

Several dioceses and religious communities across the United States have made public lists of clergy with credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. In the spirit of accountability, I have decided to release these names from St. Norbert Abbey. My hope is that the ‘release of names’ will assist in the healing process for victims and survivors. I profoundly apologize and ask forgiveness from those abused by the Norbertines of our Abbey.

Beginning in 2018, I turned over personnel files to Praesidium, Inc. for an independent review. Praesidium, Inc. is based in Arlington, Texas, with national and international clients. They specialize in abuse risk assessment and management for secular and religious organizations. Their professional team is comprised of psychologists, social workers, lawyers and human resource personnel.

The purpose of the file review was to identify any Norbertine with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. The reviewed files covered the years 1966 through 2018. Praesidium identified 19 Norbertines from St. Norbert Abbey. In addition, 3 other priests from different Norbertine foundations were identified. Their superiors have been notified.

As I stated before, I will never tolerate sex abuse by anyone. When the Abbey receives an allegation, it will immediately be reported to civil authorities and the Norbertine will be removed from ministry. The protection of children is of utmost importance and I do not take this responsibility lightly.

At this time, I wish to thank my brother Norbertines who have remained faithful witnesses and ministers of the Gospel. It is through your dedicated service that God will bring healing and peace to our troubled church.

As we move forward, we hope to be transparent and honest about the failings that have occurred through members of our Abbey. Our list of credible allegations will be updated if new credible allegations are made and confirmed.

I ask for your prayers for all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

In Christ, through Mary and Norbert,

Rt. Rev. Dane Radecki, O. Praem.

Abbot – St. Norbert Abbey

 SNAP's response to Norbertine Release of credibly accused priest sex offenders: 

Today, the Norbertine Religious Order have finally released a list of priests publicly accused of abuse. We believe that this release – and others by other church officials in Wisconsin – should be reviewed and investigated by the state attorney general.

The release from the Norbertines includes the names of 22 priests that church officials, including the current Abbot and several former Abbots of the religious order, knew had sexually assaulted children in the Green Bay diocese. This long-overdue move comes as twenty state attorney generals around the United States have opened investigations into the abuse of children and subsequent cover-up by church officials since last summer’s release of the explosive Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania.
 
Other states that have issued preliminary findings of their investigations show the same pattern of abuse and cover up that was dramatically demonstrated in Pennsylvania. Specifically, where church officials have claimed to release full lists of credibly accused clerics those lists have been found to dramatically under-count the actual number of accused clerics and yet another attempt to mislead the public and law enforcement. In Illinois, for example the Attorney General recently found that over 500 credibly accused priests were not reported, fully two-thirds of all accused clerics.  

Additionally, these lists do not provide the information that is crucial to understanding how thousands of children were sexually assaulted in Wisconsin over the past several decades. We can only question how did scores of child molesters evade justice when their superiors knew they were assaulting children? We believe the answer to this question can best be found by Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Every clerical offender on today’s list has a file concerning their crimes, what church officials knew about those crimes, and what actions were taken and by whom in response to those allegations. If the Norbertines were serious about justice, they would have immediately turned over all their files to the Attorney General of Wisconsin and the District Attorney of Green Bay.  Then, properly redacted to protect victim identities, they would release these files to victims, Catholics and the public. 

Unfortunately, law enforcement investigations of crimes against children by priests have too long been “outsourced” to church officials and “private” consultants.  The institution that has been shown to have allowed children to be raped and assaulted is not the institution who should be allowed to investigate itself, decide what information it will and will not release, and then serve up their own conclusions. 

We know that the only credible source to vet any list of abusers by released by church officials is law enforcement, specifically the attorney general. We are hopeful that A.G. Kaul will join his colleagues across the country soon and start investigating these cases in Wisconsin.