GENESEE DEPOT — Parishioners at St. Paul were reeling from the news delivered to them during last weekend’s Masses by Fr. Robert Gosma, serving as a personal representative of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.
He informed the congregation that its pastor, Fr. Mark Molling, was being placed on temporary administrative leave while an investigation is being conducted into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against him dating to the mid-1990s.
“It was like being punched in the stomach when you least expect it,” said St. Paul trustee Jim Dunlap in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald. “We’re a family, we need to come together.”
According to the letter from Archbishop Listecki, read by Fr. Gosma at Mass, the allegation was reported through the Chapter 11 process.
“Per archdiocesan policy, the allegation was reported to the appropriate district attorney for review,” read the letter, and the Waukesha County district attorney declined to prosecute.
Even though criminal charges have not been issued, the archdiocese will begin its own investigation using a professional, independent investigator who will deliver his investigative report to the Diocesan Review Board.
“Fr. Molling denies the allegation and I must remind everyone that no substantiation of the allegation has occurred,” said Archbishop Listecki in the letter read to parishioners. “… The investigation will take as much time as is needed to ensure that it is thorough, seeking truth and justice.”
According to Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, his office found there was no “sufficient” evidence to prove the case.
“We have an individual who has made an allegation, we have a suspect who has denied the allegation and there isn’t … there are some challenges in establishing the credibility of the claim being made by the complainant,” said Schimel in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald. “I have to assess whether this case is potentially provable in a criminal court and I conclude this one is not.”
Fr. Molling has served as pastor of St. Paul since 2008. While he is on temporary administrative leave, Fr. Gosma will fulfill the pastoral and administrative needs of the parish, assisted by other priests as needed. Deacon Larry Norman will also be assisting with the parish’s pastoral and administrative needs, said Julie Wolf, spokesperson for the archdiocese.
According to archdiocesan procedures, (see tinyurl.com/
ybe2oop), after the investigation is conducted, a report will be sent to the Review Board.
The board will study the report “using a standard of ‘preponderance of evidence’ and will arrive at a conclusion as to whether or not the allegation has been substantiated. Their recommendation will be sent to the archbishop who will have the ultimate say about the priest’s suitability for ministry.
If the allegation is substantiated, the archbishop will refer the case to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and if not substantiated, he will issue a decree of exoneration, according to archdiocesan procedures.
Dunlap said he spoke briefly to Fr. Molling to pass along the well wishes of some of the parishioners, but added that parishioners were concerned.
“Our hope and prayer is that the outcome of (the investigation) is fair and just to everyone that’s involved in this unfortunate situation,” said Dunlap.