February 19, 2013
Capuchin religious order says priest in charge of Wisconsin high school seminary committed sexual assaults against minors
Fr. Dennis Druggan, President of St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, permanently barred from ministry
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director
The Capuchin Franciscans, a Roman Catholic religious order, has announced that Fr. Dennis Druggan, the longtime President of St. Lawrence Seminary, a high school boarding school located in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin and operating in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, has been permanently removed from ministry for reports of sexually assaulting minors.
It’s commendable that the Capuchins appear to have taken decisive action in this case and are public about it. It may be too early to judge, but it is an encouraging sign that former and emerging cases will be treated in a similar manner.
In July of 2012, a victim came forward from Montana saying Druggan had sexually assaulted him as a youngster in the 1980’s. The Capuchins then suspended Druggan from his post at St. Lawrence. Druggan denied the sexual assault(s). Now, a second victim has come forward, presumably also from Montana.
Druggan’s denial of these criminal acts, along with his position as president in charge of St. Lawrence, a boarding school for youngsters where he has had unprecedented access to thousands of minors for years, is cause for obvious concern. Child sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the nation, with an annual reporting rate of only 7 or 8 percent. That means that most victims never report their crime and when they do it takes decades for them to do so.
The Capuchins and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee need to alert and offer independent assistance to those who may have been harmed by Druggan, especially students or former students at St. Lawrence, and encourage anyone who is a victim, witnessed or has suspicion of a criminal act against a youngster by a Capuchin to report it immediately to the police.
Although prosecutors were unable to proceed with criminal charges against Druggan, typical in many of these cases due to an old statute of limitations, a proper investigation and ruling by a review board, which the Capuchins appear to have done, has resulted in Druggan’s permanent dismissal from ministry.
The conduct by the Capuchins in this case—suspending Druggan after receiving a credible report, cooperating with law enforcement, investigation and review by a board of non-Capuchins, removing Druggan permanently from ministry and making a public announcement–is in sharp relief as to how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Archbishop Jerome Listecki seem to be handling or ignoring similar reports.
After filing for federal bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and its review board has received hundreds of reports over the last two years of sexual assault by clergy, yet Listecki has permanently removed none of these individuals from ministry and all of them are still at their jobs. In the past months alone, Listecki has been caught refusing to cooperate with law enforcement on a current and active case of child sex assault in Fond du Lac and returned a priest to ministry who was twice suspended for reports of sexual assaulting youngsters. Indeed, Listecki appears to have a very troubling history of exonerating more priests with sexual assault reports than any bishop in the United States.
The Capuchins are doing nothing more than what any licensing or professional board which regulates a credentialed occupation working with children and families are required to do: ensure the public that members of their profession who are in positions of public trust are removed from the practice of that occupation when it is found they have used their profession to commit criminal acts.
Unlike other professions, however, Druggan can keep his licensing title and is still today a priest, although he cannot publicly practice as one. And unlike his victims, he will be provided for by the Capuchins for the rest of his life. Druggan’s official punishment under church law for sexually assaulting children under his care is “prayer and penance,” whatever that means.
That doesn’t seem much of consequence for sexually assaulting children.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com