Christ & cross

The Diocese of La Crosse on Saturday released the names of 25 priests the diocese says sexually abused children over the years.

The list included 18 diocesan priests, two non-diocesan clergy who served in the diocese and five non-diocesan priests who spent time in the diocese and had their names on an abuse list in another diocese or religious order.

Fifteen of the priests served in west-central Wisconsin parishes.

Eight worked in Eau Claire: Bruce Ball, Immaculate Conception, Regis High School; Thomas Dempsey, Sacred Heart of Jesus-Sacred Heart Hospital; James Ennis, Sacred Heart of Jesus; James Finucan, St. James the Greater; James E. Mason, Immaculate Conception-Regis High School, Newman Center; James Stauber, St. Patrick Jr. High School-Regis High School; Raymond Wagner, St. Patrick; and Daniel Budzynski, Newman Parish.

In a letter from Bishop William Callahan read at all weekend church Masses, the church leader said the release of the names is an “essential ingredient” in the diocese’s response to the “clergy sexual abuse crisis.”

The bishop said the disclosure of the names was an important, necessary and painful step.

“The Church must again confess to this evil and pledge our prayers and support to all victims and their families,” Callahan said in the letter. “To all victims and their loved ones, everywhere: I and so many others continue to offer prayers and assistance. I realize that our promise of continued prayer and support may not seem to be enough; for your pain, suffering and anguish will always be a part of you. I am sorry, however, for all you’ve suffered.”

The diocese web site explained that an allegation was deemed substantiated if it has been “sufficiently confirmed so as to be believed that abuse occurred.”

The fact a specific parish is on the list does not mean abuse occurred at that parish. Most clergy served in many parishes.

Most of the clergy members are dead and none of the surviving priests are serving in the ministry.

“As your Bishop, I commit to openness and transparency,” Callahn said. “I encourage all victims to come forward as we offer our willingness and ability to assist in the healing process. I pledge my continued efforts to protect against future abuse. I promise that every future allegation will be addressed professionally and thoroughly.

The list was released after an independent audit by Texas-based Defenbaugh & Associates of clergy files dating to 1868.

The La Crosse Diocese serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties, including Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn, Buffalo, Clark, Jackson, Pepin, Pierce and Trempealeau in west-central Wisconsin.