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Catholic Priest Sued Over Abuse Settlement

Lawsuit Alleges Work In Hospitals Violates Agreement To Stay Away From Children

Nov 18, 2002 | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

An Elm Grove man has filed a lawsuit against the retired Catholic priest he contends in court molested him as a boy.

In the suit, filed Monday in Waukesha County Circuit Court, John A. Ramstack and his wife, Patrice M. Ramstack, allege Father David J. Hanser, 70, breached an agreement he made that prohibited him from working with children.

Hanser retired May 1 and no longer has a public ministry.

Until an article April 21 in the Journal Sentinel about Hanser, he was working 32 hours a week as a chaplain for St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Some of those hours were spent as a chaplain at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital in Brookfield and on call for night assignments at St. Joseph's, Elmbrook and two other hospitals in the Covenant Healthcare System.

A Covenant spokesman has said that there were no incidents involving Hanser reported since Hanser started work in 1991, but that some hospital officials have said they were unaware that Hanser was restricted by an out-of-court agreement from working with children.

Hanser did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Ramstack, now 46, contends that he and three of his five brothers were molested by Hanser when they were boys. Most of the alleged assaults took place when Ramstack was 11 to 16, at Hanser's cottage on Moose Lake in the Town of Merton. Hanser befriended Ramstack's parents and their 10 children, and frequently invited them to the cottage.

The Ramstacks and their attorney at the time, John Laskowski; Hanser and his attorney, Charles Hausmann; Joseph Dean Jr., representing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; and Matthew Flynn, attorney for the archdiocese, signed an out-of-court agreement on Jan. 15, 1990.

Ramstack has said he told the archdiocese of the sexual abuse allegations in 1988.

According to the agreement, which has now been filed in court, Hanser was prohibited from engaging in or accepting employment, enrolling in any training courses or performing volunteer work that would give him access to children.

The agreement gave the Ramstacks $65,000, paid by the archdiocese, and prohibited the Ramstacks from discussing the allegations unless the settlement was broken.

John Ramstack, who also did not return a phone call seeking comment, has said that he learned of Hanser's work for Covenant. He believes he can talk about the allegations against Hanser because Hanser broke the agreement.

A Milwaukee Archdiocese spokesman has said that Hanser entered into treatment after the assault allegations were made, and was assigned to hospital duties later only after a therapist assured archdiocesan officials there was no risk to children.

But John Ramstack believes Hanser has been allowed to work near children in violation of the agreement; children and youths often visit adult family members at the hospitals, and there is a pediatrics wing at St. Joseph's, he has said.

According to allegations in the lawsuit filed Monday, which seeks an undetermined amount of damages, Hanser's actions were with "intentional disregard of the rights" provided by the agreement giving the Ramstacks a right to seek punitive damages.

The Ramstacks are asking for a jury trial.

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