Church convicts priest of abuse

Gazette extra, Wisconsin/June 13, 2007
By Marcia Nelesen

A former Janesville priest has been found guilty in a church trial of sexually abusing a minor.

The Rev. Kenneth Klubertanz, a former priest at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, remains a priest but cannot have a ministry. The three canonists who served as judges also restricted him from being alone with anyone younger than 18.

Klubertanz has been on a leave of absence since 2002, when a former Janesville man, Christopher Leonard, filed an affidavit with Catholic Church officials in Madison describing a 1975 incident at a northern Wisconsin lake.

Leonard was 13. Klubertanz was a priest at St. Patrick's and had taken the boy on a camping trip when Leonard said Klubertanz sexually abused him.

After Leonard's allegations were made public, two other men reported that Klubertanz had inappropriate sexual contact with them in the late 1960s and 1970, when Klubertanz was stationed in Reedsburg.

Klubertanz's trial was conducted in Madison. Leonard told The Janesville Gazette earlier that he testified at the trial in July 2005.

Tuesday's announcement by the Diocese of Madison was made after officials received notification from the Vatican regarding the guilty decision in the trial.

"Father Klubertanz has not been removed from the clerical state, but he is not assignable to any priestly ministry," according to the release from the diocese.

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has indicated he is to lead a life of prayer and penance … "

Klubertanz cannot appeal the ruling.

"I recognize that today's announcement may serve as a deep source of pain for those sexually abused by members of the clergy," Bishop Robert Molino of the Diocese of Madison said in the release.

"For those who have been sexually abused by members of the clergy, I sincerely apologize for the suffering you and your families have endured.

"Sexual crimes perpetrated against children or vulnerable adults by priests are shameful and grievous. I remain committed to providing support for survivors and their loved ones who have experienced such profound emotional and spiritual suffering as a result of these depraved acts. I will also strive to show the compassion of Christ to any brother priest who has fallen into this tragic situation."

The Gazette was not able to reach Leonard this morning. He is a social worker in Missouri.

But after giving a sworn statement to the diocese sexual abuse review board, Leonard in a past article said he had grown dissatisfied with the way his case was being handled.

"I do truly believe that Klubertanz has more rights than I do … But when the person has more rights than you do for closure, it's not fair."

A former Reedsburg man who claimed Klubertanz molested him also told the Gazette the church was dragging its feet in the prosecution of the priest.

"It's taken so long," the man said. "Rome works so slow."

"It really works on you at times. You feel defenseless. You feel hopeless."

Unlike trials in criminal or civil court, Klubertanz's church trial under canon law was not public.

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