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On July 6, 1988, Bishop Sklba was contacted by a religious woman notifying him about allegations of inappropriate actions on the part of Hanser toward members of a family. Someone from that same family left Bishop Sklba a message to contact them. Bishop Sklba was able to speak by phone with a member of the family two days later. This individual reported that two siblings had been sexually abused by Hanser. Bishop Sklba met with Hanser that evening and told him he was to move to Bethany House. Hanser informed Bishop Sklba that his attorney, Charles Hausmann, was concerned about a lack of due process. The following day Bishop Sklba met with two of the family members and agreed to alter his vacation plans in order to meet with one of the individuals Hanser had abused. That same day, Attorney Hausmann contacted Bishop Sklba as Hanser’s spokesperson agreeing to administrative leave for Hanser with residency at Bethany House. Bishop Sklba agreed that Hanser would also be permitted to stay at his mother’s home.
On July 14, 1988, Bishop Sklba met with several members of the same family. One reported one incident of attempted sexual contact by Hanser in 1969 when the individual was 18 or 19. A second sibling reported one forcible sexual contact by Hanser in 1970 or 1971 when the individual was a junior in high school. A third sibling reported 25 to 40 encounters with Hanser from 1968 to 1973 when the individual was between the ages of 12 and 17. Another sibling was present but reported that no abuse had occurred.
Bishop Sklba was informed that the family had been in contact with child abuse officers and police in the spring. Bishop Sklba apologized for what had happened to these individuals and offered assistance with therapy. The family wanted assurances that Hanser would not be in a position to do anything like they had experienced. Through his legal counsel, Hanser continued to resist a movement to Bethany House. Bishop Sklba continued to insist that he needed to reside there and also undergo a thorough assessment at a residential treatment facility.
In November, 1988, Bishop Sklba met with Hanser and told him he needed to resign as pastor. Hanser resigned the following week. At that time, Hanser was permitted to assist with Mass at St. Kilian Parish with the pastor being fully informed of his situation. Hanser was in weekly counseling sessions.
In February, 1989, Bishop Sklba was informed by a priest hospital chaplain that Hanser was beginning a program in clinical pastoral education at the hospital. The priest inquired about Hanser’s past and Bishop Sklba informed him of the reports about Hanser. Bishop Sklba recommended that Hanser’s work be limited to adult units.
In May, 1989, Bishop Brust and Bishop Sklba met with Archbishop Weakland to discuss any possibility of future assignment for Hanser. It was decided that any assignment would require a plan of therapy, a support group, supervision, counseling and spiritual direction.
In October, 1989, Bishop Sklba discovered notes in a locked drawer in Bishop Brust’s office. The notes indicated that a complaint against Hanser had been made in 1975 stating that he had taken a minor to his lake cottage and sexually assaulted him.
In January, 1990, Bishop Sklba wrote to a concerned party that Hanser would not be permitted to be in a position where he would have anything more than incidental contact with minors; that Bishop Sklba would continue to seek the advice of professionals; that Hanser would be supervised in any ministry he did; and that any complaints about him would be promptly investigated.
In January, 1990, Bishop Sklba spoke with Father O’Donnell, the hospital chaplain where Hanser was pursuing training. The chaplain was fully apprised of Hanser’s background and advised Bishop Sklba that Hanser’s work was in a geriatric unit. The chaplain agreed to provide ongoing supervision and restrict access to other units.
In February, 1991, Bishop Sklba wrote to the Archdiocese for Military Services about Hanser’s request for chaplaincy at the Milwaukee Veteran’s Administration Hospital. Bishop Sklba disclosed the need for Hanser to be restricted from contact with minors. The Archdiocese for Military Services declined to endorse Hanser.
Hanser continued to get chaplaincy training on his own until he was certified in 1992.
In November, 1992, Father O’Donnell inquired about Hanser’s being able to serve as a hospital chaplain. Bishop Sklba and Father Venne, vicar for clergy, discussed the idea and determined that certain restrictions would continue to be necessary. Bishop Sklba requested that Father O’Donnell make sure that the administrator of the hospital was aware of Hanser’s situation. Father O’Donnell reported that the CEO was fully informed. In May, 1992, Hanser signed an agreement about his restrictions in ministry and at his residence.
Upon review of all priests’ files, in May, 1995, a precept was issued to Hanser restricting all public ministry, revoking faculties, and ordering no contact with minors. A modification of the precept allowing exercise of ministry and restoration of faculties but only in a hospital setting with no contact with minors was issued in September, 1995.
In April, 2002, in the context of the work of the Eisenburg Commission, a precept was issued which reinstated all restrictions on public ministry. Between 2002 and 2010, the archdiocese received five more reports of abuse by Hanser, one from the 1950’s, two from the 1960’s and two from the 1970’s.
In May, 2004, Hanser’s case was referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with a request that Hanser be dismissed ex officio, ad poenam from the clerical state.
In September, 2005, Hanser was dismissed from the clerical state.
David Hanser died on January 11, 2022.
This narrative is based on facts contained in documents related to this Diocesan priest offender.
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