The Madison Catholic Diocese said Wednesday its sexual abuse review board has found an allegation of child sexual abuse against the Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder "credible."
The diocese said Madison Bishop Robert Morlino agrees with the board’s finding and has referred the case to the Vatican for judgment.
The allegation against Clauder was brought forth earlier this year but not made public at the request of the accuser, said diocesan spokesman Brent King. No other information will be released, including the gender of the accuser or the nature of the allegation, he said.
Clauder was placed on administrative leave in 1999 after the diocese received credible allegations against him involving sexual misconduct with an adult, the diocese said.
Clauder was involved in a legal dispute throughout the 1990s in which a woman said she had a sexual relationship with him. The woman sued the diocese accusing it of negligence for not investigating the priest after his suspicious conduct with another woman.
In its 1997 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the sexual relationship between Clauder and the woman who filed the civil claim lasted about a year. But it rejected the woman’s claim of negligent supervision of Clauder by the diocese.
Prior to being placed on leave, Clauder served in and around Madison. He 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 the now-closed Madison General Hospital.
Since 1999, Gibbs has not been allowed to present himself publicly as a priest or publicly celebrate the sacraments, said William Yallaly, executive assistant to Morlino.
The Vatican is now the sole determiner of the case, Yallaly said. There is no time line for a decision. If the Vatican agrees with Morlino’s finding, a number of options are possible, including defrocking Clauder or asking him to spend the remainder of his life in prayer and penance, Yallaly said.
Attempts to reach Clauder were unsuccessful.
Police will review and have the authority to investigate crimes they hear about through the media or from other sources other than the victim, according to Madison Police Lt. David McCaw, but doing so becomes difficult without a victim’s formal complaint.
McCaw said police are especially sensitive when it comes to sex crimes because victims initially might not want the attention that comes with an investigation.