Thursday, March 31, 2011

Priest accused
Madison priest accused of sexual assault of girl
A Madison priest allegedly fondled a teenage girl in Stevens Point and at her Monona home in 2003 and 2004, then threatened to sue the girl and her cousin for slander to stop them from telling other people about the incidents, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.

The Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder, 64, allegedly told the girl that if she told anyone else what he had done she would not go to heaven, and said nobody in her family would believe her, according to the complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

She was 14 and 15 years old when the incidents are alleged to have happened. She said she did not reveal them until 2009, when she was 20, because she was afraid of Clauder, and even said she was afraid to go to heaven because he could be there.

"I never want to be near him," she told a nurse, her parish priest and family members in February 2009.

Clauder, who was removed from public life as a priest by the Madison Diocese in 1999 because of a separate allegation of sexual misconduct involving an adult woman, was charged with sexual assault of a child under the age of 16, a felony that carries a penalty of up to 40 years of combined prison and extended supervision.

Clauder is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning. Court records do not name a lawyer for Clauder, who does not have a listed telephone number. His former lawyer, Richard Auerbach, who is mentioned several times in the complaint, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment, his office said.

In his career Clauder was an associate priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona, an associate priest at St. Dennis Parish in Madison and a chaplain at Madison General Hospital, renamed Meriter in 1987.

Madison Catholic Diocese spokesman Brent King said that after Clauder was removed from public ministry in 1999 he has had no role or assignment within the church but has been provided a retired priest's stipend.

In August, the diocese's sexual abuse review board found the girl's allegations to be "credible and probable," the complaint states. Bishop Robert Morlino referred the case to the Vatican, which told the diocese to proceed with a canonical trial, which will be pursued after the end of any criminal or civil trial against Clauder, the diocese said.

The diocese said police were not contacted after initially learning of the alleged sexual abuse because the victim was an adult and had said she wanted to handle it within the church.

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