Review completed of diocesan files on sexual abuse issues Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Diocesan Staff, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Sep. 05, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

MADISON -- After a review of over 500 personnel files and tens of thousands of pages by an objective third-party review firm, the Diocese of Madison is confident that there are no known historical issues regarding the sexual abuse of minors left uninvestigated or undisclosed.

These are some of the key takeaways diocesan leadership is drawing from a now-concluded forensic file review of diocesan clergy personnel files.

The review, which was contracted through diocesan attorneys, was conducted by Defenbaugh & Associates, an investigative firm out of Texas, comprised mostly of retired agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Building trust and healing

With its announcement of the review in June, diocesan leadership said, "Through rereleasing names of known past offenders, and adding to that list any names of those previously found by the diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board to be credibly accused, and conducting a thorough investigation and review of any additional names, the diocese hopes to continue to build trust, to provide healing wherever possible, and to reassure the faithful of the Diocese of Madison that such matters have been and will continue to be dealt with appropriately."

The review and investigations into related matters have resulted in the diocese adding one new name to the list previously published and announcing an additional investigation.

The added name comes following an investigation which was previously announced as in-process even before the review began, regarding a long-deceased priest of the diocese.

"That investigation, based upon allegations which came to the diocese in the past year, has concluded," a media release from the diocese said, "and its findings have been presented to the Sexual Abuse Review Board."

"The review board, which is presently comprised of a retired circuit judge, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a former law-enforcement officer, a local attorney, and a senior pastor, has determined that more than one allegation of inappropriate touching of a minor is credible against Fr. John Eberhardy, a priest of the Diocese of Madison, deceased since 1992," the release said.

New allegation

In addition to the revelation of Eberhardy as a priest credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, the diocese announced an investigation into an allegation that came during the course of the file review.

This new allegation and investigation regards Fr. Patrick Doherty and acts he is purported to have undertaken over 50 years ago. Doherty was an Irish-born priest, ordained for the Diocese of Madison in 1959.

The diocese says that Doherty, who is now 85 years years old, was retired from active ministry in 1993, without canonical faculties to act as a priest, following ongoing scandal to the faithful, involving an admitted problem with alcohol as well as accusations from parishioners made to the diocese that there was an adult man living in the rectory.

Doherty no longer resides within the diocese and, as a precaution, diocesan leadership has communicated with the bishop where he presently lives, even though Doherty was already prohibited from being in ministry as a priest of the diocese.

Results of the investigation will be presented to the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board, and the bishop's decision, after receiving the recommendation of the Review Board, will be disclosed publicly.

Ongoing case

In addition to these issues, there is presently the ongoing criminal case against Fr. William A. Nolan. Diocesan leadership has reaffirmed that Nolan's case will be subject to its own investigation once any criminal action is complete.

Leaders comment

In commenting to the Catholic Herald on the above, diocesan leadership shared mixed emotions on the review, the additional name, and ongoing investigations. With regard to the conclusion of the file review, Diocesan Chancellor William Yallaly, who coordinated diocesan operations with diocesan attorneys and the review firm, said, "There is no resting on this issue, but there is at least a momentary reassurance in knowing that we have addressed all known concerns as they have come to us in the past. This puts us in a better place to build trust and to continue to improve going forward. As a parent myself, I hope that every institution is doing more to insure the protection of children.

"Although we're now confident that we have investigated -- or are investigating -- every documented claim of sexual abuse of minors made against clergy, it's quite possible that there remain individuals still out there, suffering in silence. We once again invite any of those who have suffered such abuse to come forward."

Bishop Donald Hying, who in his first few weeks as Bishop of Madison has met with victim-survivors of past cases of clergy abuse, expressed his sorrow. "The deep wounds of these sins and acts against children cannot be taken for granted or ever forgotten by the Church.

"I am so very sorry for what has been done by people who were supposed to represent Christ and the Church, but who took advantage of that position of trust to commit these unspeakable acts. I welcome all who want to speak to me about their woundedness, in an effort to seek healing and reconciliation. I plead with any who have suffered from abuse at the hands of another -- even if that person was a representative of the Church -- to remember that these actions, committed by people, are not actively willed by God and are contrary to all that Christ and His Church stand for.

"Please know that you are infinitely loved by your Creator and that your relationship with Him is of the utmost importance. Jesus desires for you to know His love, His healing, and His peace."

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