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Priest Stripped of Duties Over Abuse Allegation

Feb 2, 2004 | Journal Times Online

A Roman Catholic priest and former pastor at a Burlington church has been stripped of his duties because of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse involving a Racine man.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan delivered the message to parishioners of St. Patrick's Parish in Elkhorn Saturday night.

According to a 37-year-old Racine man, the incidents happened between 1976 and 1980 and involved the Rev. Michael Benham when he was a parish priest at St. John Nepomuk in Racine.

The victim claims he was abused by the priest more than 25 times, starting when he was nine years old. The man declined to provide his full name to protect his family, particularly two children who are unaware of the situation.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl said Benham also formerly pastor of St. Charles Catholic Church in Burlington has acknowledged sexually abusing the victim.

"This is the first allegation ever made against this priest," Hohl said, adding that Benham has cooperated fully with the archdiocese's investigation.

The priest was removed from the parish Jan. 23.

The victim said he became concerned last fall when the two small boys of a friend in Elkhorn were getting to know the priest because the family attended Benham's church.

He had never talked about being abused but told his wife about his concerns and then went to the archdiocese.

The Racine County district attorney's office was informed but advised the archdiocese in mid-January that the case was too old to be prosecuted.

The Rev. Paul Daniels, a retired diocesan priest, was named to serve as temporary administrator of the parish beginning today.

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