Skip to comments.Eichenberger filled with relief, but not joy (WI)
Posted on 11/17/2015 8:18:24 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
St. Francis Borgia priest cleared of wrongdoing in assault allegation
CEDARBURG â Pastor Tom Eichenberger said it will take the rest of his life to restore the credibility that was called into question following an accusation that he assaulted a boy while on his first assignment as a young priest.
The St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church priest returned to his parish Monday after being cleared of any wrongdoing by a retired police detective and an Archdiocese of Milwaukee review board.
âThe first words out of my mouth have to be thanks be to God for restoring me to the place I love â St. Francis Borgia,â Eichenberger, 65, said in a statement. âIn addition to my faith, the one thing that got me through this
nightmare was the overt and full support of parishioners and my fellow priests. When I felt abandoned and alone, you all were there.â
Eichenberger has been on administrative leave since early September, when the Archdiocese ordered an independent investigation into an accusation that was discovered during the the archdioceseâs bankruptcy proceedings. Specifically, a man alleged that Eichenberger sexually assaulted him while Eichenberger was a priest at Holy Assumption Parish in West Allis in 1977 and the man was a young student.
âThe individual filing the claim did not identify the priest when making the allegation in their claim,â Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki wrote in a letter to St. Francis Borgia parishioners in September. âHowever, just recently an identification was made and it names the priest as Father Tom Eichenberger.â
The claim was forwarded to the Milwaukee District Attorneyâs Office, which declined to prosecute. According to state statutes, charges involving an alleged assault of a minor must be brought against the accused before the victim turns 26.
Eichenberger told the News Graphic that he has struggled with a range of emotions over the past two months, including depression.
He said he has never heard of his accuser, although he is listed as a student at Holy Assumption at the time. But Eichenberger said that an investigation by a retired Milwaukee police detective with the sensitive crimes unit found the claims to be âwithout merit or credibility.â
âThe accuserâs criminal record and the late timing of his claim at the end of the archdiocesan bankruptcy might indicate his real motive,â Eichenberger said.
âI am filled with relief. Not joy, just relief,â he wrote to his parish. âThe whole thing has left me drained.â
Nonetheless, Eichenberger said he forgives the man.
âI do this not only because Jesus tells us to, but because I cannot judge my accuser. Who knows what problems and pressures he struggles with in his life,â he wrote. âI will pray that he finds some measure of hope and healing, just as I now need the same.â
Eichenberger thanked St. Francis Borgia Assistant Pastor Justin Lopina and Brenda Cline, the parish director of St. Joseph Parish in Grafton, who served the Cedarburg churchâs pastoral and administrative needs.
âBrenda had two parishes to lead, St. Josephâs and SFB, and Father Justin had my work in addition to his,â Eichenberger said. âHow can we thank them for their loving, expert leadership at a very difficult time?â
The pastor, who plans to retire in 2 1/2 years, said the real struggle for him will be âunringingâ the bell of accusation and restoring his reputation.
âOnce your name is dragged through the mud, it sticks,â he said. âSo I expect that many people will have lingering doubts and second glances when they see me enter a classroom. But that will be their problem. I know that I was always innocent, and have nothing to hide. Thank you if you can help me restore my reputation â¦ Pray for me as I do for you.â
This is personal because this is the Pastor of my church, but it certainly interests all Catholics in Wisconsin. I don’t want this news to fall through the cracks of a very full news week.
FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.
A tough thing to go through. These kinds of charges are almost impossible to fully shake off even when they are unsubstantiated smears. Unless the accuser recants, there will always be those who whisper about it.
A foul, foul crime, but even more foul is the false accusation.
Bless you guys. A very grueling thing to go through, even when acquittal is secured.
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