Green Bay diocese officially removes former priest accused of abuse

Allegations from 50 years ago spark action

Press-Gazette, Wisconsin/July 5, 2013

By Paul Srubas

A man who voluntarily left the priesthood in 1972 has formally been removed from the clergy over an allegation that he sexually abused a boy in the 1960s, the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay announced Friday.

Jerome Koerner of De Pere was ordained a priest in 1960 and served until he left the ministry as a matter of his own choice on Dec. 1, 1972, the diocese said. Koerner served in Kaukauna and Ashwaubenon.

In May 2012, the diocese received an allegation that he had sexually abused a boy while serving as a priest. Upon receiving the allegation, the diocese began the process of removing him from the priesthood. Koerner denied the allegation but cooperated with the process, which requires assent from church officials at the Vatican. The process was recently completed, and the diocese put out a public statement Friday.

Civil authorities also were notified of the allegation against Koerner, the diocese said.

Part of the diocesan policy for keeping children safe, the diocese said in a statement, is to bar clergy "who have a credible allegation of abuse of a minor against them."

Koerner, when contacted Friday by telephone, denied molesting anybody.

"I'm going to keep it simple: I deny any allegation," he said.

Gary Siebers, 64, of San Diego told Press-Gazette Media on Friday morning that he was the person who issued the allegation against Koerner in May 2012. Siebers said he reported the matter last year to the Kaukauna Police Department, because that was the jurisdiction of the alleged offense in the 1960s. The police department determined too much time had passed to justify pursuing criminal charges, Siebers said.

Siebers said Koerner molested him multiple times from 1960 to 1967, the year Siebers graduated and left Holy Cross Grade School in Kaukauna, where Koerner had been serving as parish priest.

Green Bay city directories from 1969 through 1972 list Koerner as an associate pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Church in Ashwaubenon. That's consistent with Siebers' recollection that Koerner transferred from Kaukauna to Ashwaubenon for the last few years of his career as a priest. Siebers said Koerner quit the priesthood in 1972 to marry, a fact that Koerner corroborated Friday as his only other comment to Press-Gazette Media.

Siebers said he didn't report the molestation until recently because he tried to put the issue emotionally behind him.

"Even though it troubles you, you can manage," he said. "But there comes a point where you realize that by keeping it quiet, that's how they win."

He also worried that his not speaking out put other children at risk.

The announcement comes just days after a much-publicized court action involving the Milwaukee Archdiocese led to that organization posting a listing of priests who faced child abuse allegations over the years. None of those priests had direct ties to the Green Bay diocese.

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