Milwaukee priest put on leave as part of bankruptcy proceedings

by Marie Rohde

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The Milwaukee archdiocese has placed on leave a priest previously accused of sexual abuse as part of its bankruptcy proceedings. Fr. Tom Eichenberger denies the 38-year-old allegations and it is the only allegation made against him, according to the archdiocese.

Eichenberger has been a longtime member of the priests’ council, a group representing districts of the archdiocese and advises the archbishop on matters.

In a letter to parishioners of St. Francis Borgia in suburban Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the matter was sent to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office for review and that the office declined to prosecute. The archdiocese did not respond to requests for a comment.

Related: SNAP, chairman of committee of creditors criticize archdiocese for not identifying priests

Kent Lovern, the chief deputy district attorney, said his office received notification from the archdiocese as part of “a long standing protocol we have with the archdiocese.” He said that after lawyers in his office determined that the age of the allegation exceeded the statute of limitations “we determined we had no basis to move forward” and that no additional investigation of the allegations was made. He said that even if the case had been brought to his office as soon as the allegation was made in the bankruptcy, it still would have been outside the statute of limitations.

Lovern could recall only one other referral involving a priest, that of Capuchin Fr. Robert Harrison. In January, allegations were reported to the archdiocese dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. Because Harrison moved out of the jurisdiction – he went to the Bronx in New York where he worked as a teacher and coach – the tolling of the statute stopped and Harrison could still be charged. The case is still under review, Lovern said.

Listecki said in the letter that the case involving Eichenberger is now being reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board, a committee created in 2003 by then-archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York. The committee is headed by Margaret Farrow, a longtime Republican legislator who was appointed lieutenant governor of Wisconsin in 2001, a post she held for about two years. She did not respond to an email or phone messages. 

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