Hudson priest resigns over $10,800 church theft

St. Patrick's trustees point to apparent gambling addiction

Pioneer Press, Wisconsin/March 22, 2011

A Hudson, Wisconsin priest has resigned from his parish after allegedly taking $10,800 of church money meant for needy families.

In a letter given to parishioners at St. Patrick Church this weekend, church trustees said it appears the Rev. Daniel Dahlberg took the money as a result of a "serious gambling addiction" that led to personal financial issues and impaired judgment.

Dahlberg spoke to church members after services this weekend and "basically acknowledged his wrongdoing," said church trustee Sam Cari, who added that Dahlberg was very remorseful.

"I think he's tried to take the steps necessary to make this right, to the extent that he can, and mitigate the damage," Cari said Monday.

Dahlberg resigned from the church Monday and was placed on administrative leave by Bishop Peter Christensen of the Catholic Diocese of Superior. The diocese confirmed the allegations against Dahlberg, who had served as pastor of St. Patrick, the largest church in Hudson, since 2009.

The missing money came from an account of which Dahlberg had sole control. The parish used the account to help families in need; a bookkeeping review showed the money was missing.

Cari said reactions were mixed when parishioners received news of the theft.

"There's forgiveness and concern about him ... and then there's the other extreme of anger and folks being disheartened," he said.

Dahlberg was generally well-liked and had a great deal of experience before coming to Hudson, Cari said.

The diocese said Dahlberg was asked to report the missing money to police. Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen did not immediately return a call asking whether a criminal investigation was under way, and charges had not been filed Monday.

Dahlberg could not be reached for comment Monday.

"Fr. Dahlberg is working on a repayment plan of the funds with the trustees of St. Patrick Church," the diocese said in a statement Monday. "He has also made arrangements to receive counseling for gambling addiction."

No other church accounts are believed to have been affected.

The Rev. Eugene Murphy will fill the role of temporary parochial administrator for St. Patrick.

The incident is another troubling episode for the church.

The Rev. Ryan Erickson, a former associate priest at St. Patrick, killed himself amid an investigation that found he fatally shot St. Patrick parishioner and Hudson mortician Dan O'Connell and a mortuary science intern in 2002 because O'Connell was aware of child sexual abuse allegations against the priest.

"St. Pat's is a strong, vibrant parish community that's had its share of setbacks," Cari said. "But I'm confident that, as we have in the past, we're going to bounce back and be better and stronger for all of this."

Bishop Christensen will answer questions at all church liturgies Saturday and Sunday. There also will be a town hall meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the church.

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