Catholic Diocese of Superior releases abusive clergy list – sexual abuse of a minor

Former Tomahawk and former Merrill priests, both now deceased, are on that list


Two former area priests, both now deceased, are on the list of clergy with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse, released on Nov 22, 2022, by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Superior.
In an effort to promote transparency and healing, on Nov. 22, 2022, the Most Rev. James P. Powers, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Superior, publicly released the names of clergy with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse within the Diocese. The list is the result of three separate clergy file reviews (including security consultant firm Defenbaugh & Associates), more than a year of meetings, multiple sessions with the Diocesan Review Board, and much prayer and discernment, according to Bishop Powers.
The Diocese of Superior includes the City of Superior and the Counties of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Vilas, and Washburn in northern Wisconsin. Its episcopal see (administrative center of operations) is Superior, and the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior is its mother church. The Diocese of Superior includes 103 parishes, 14 Catholic schools, and more than 23,000 households. Powers has been the Bishop of the Diocese since 2014.
“Since the Diocese of Superior was established on May 3, 1905 by Pope Pius X, several hundred priests have served the parish communities within its territory,” a prepared statement from the Diocese said. “Among the total number of priests who have served, 23 priests have had a substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor made against them. Of this number, 20 are deceased, and it should be noted that there is no priest on the list that is currently active in ministry.”

Former Merrill priest and former Tomahawk priest on the list
Two former area priests, James Kraker and David Malsch, both now deceased, are on the list of clergy with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse, and both were removed from ministry well before their deaths.
James Kraker formerly served as a priest at St. Robert Bellarmine parish in Merrill from July 1984 to June of 1992. [Subsequent to that time, St. Robert Bellarmine parish and St. Francis Xavier parish, both of Merrill, combined to form a single parish under the name St. Francis Xavier parish which resides in the building once called St. Robert Bellarmine.] Kraker died on Dec. 8, 2013, at the age of 77. He was ordained on May 29, 1965, and was removed from ministry on Nov. 28, 2001. The list from the Diocese said Kraker had multiple substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that occurred during the 10-year period from 1988 to 1998 when he served in Hammond and Merrill.
David Malsch formerly served as a priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Tomahawk. He was ordained on May 27, 1967, and was removed from ministry on Oct. 26, 1993. The list said Malsch had multiple substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that occurred between 1987 and 1991 when he served in Tomahawk.
Prior to that time, Malsch was also accused of several instances of sexual abuse of a minor elsewhere in the Diocese. Previously published articles, primarily released in the Tomahawk Leader, documented the charges and outcomes. Malsch received treatment for alcohol and sexual problems prior to being transferred to Tomahawk. Following the allegation made while Malsch was in Tomahawk, he was ultimately prosecuted and, after a series of court proceedings, was given a five year sentence which was stayed, probation, community supervision after violating that probation, and ultimately his probation was revoked in May 1997 and he served time at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution. He was registered as a sex offender and relocated to the Wounded Brothers Recon Facility, a treatment center for troubled former clergy in Robertsville, Missouri, in Jan. 2001. While there, he was found in possession of child pornography and on Nov. 7, 2003, was indicted by a grand jury on those charges. He pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, in Feb. 2005. He was then sentenced to nine years in federal prison on Dec. 9, 2005, and fined $12,500. However, in Sept. 2011, he began residing at a supervised release facility in Mauston, Wis., and was released from that facility on June 19, 2019, and began residing in Lincoln County. He died on May 20, 2022, at the age of 83.

Bishop acknowledges the sin, the pain those sins caused, and prays for healing
“As this list is made public, I want to express my deepest apology and sympathy to all victims, survivors, and the family members who suffered with them,” Powers said.
“While most of the allegations in the list are more than 30 years old, I know that the wounds caused by abuse are as fresh as if the abuse happened yesterday. I understand that the publication of this list may reopen those wounds, and I sincerely apologize,” he said. “It is my hope and prayer that making this list public will bring healing.”
The complete list can be found on the Diocesan website at

Diocese committed to protecting children
“I wish we could go back in time and undo all of the hurt and pain, the sins of the past. But we cannot,” said Powers.
“What we can do is learn from the past and do everything in our power to never repeat the abuse. I firmly believe that the Diocese of Superior is clearly on the right path in protecting our children,” Powers said.
“The Diocese of Superior remains committed to the protection of minors. Its policies include immediately reporting an abuse allegation to local law enforcement and placing the clergy on administrative leave pending an investigation,” he said. “The Diocese would pursue permanent removal from ministry of any clergy who has a substantiated allegation of abuse of a minor.”
All clergy, employees, and volunteers in all parishes, schools, and Diocesan offices are required to undergo mandatory background checks and complete training on keeping children safe, Powers said.
“Over the past 35 years, starting with our 1988 Morals and Ethics Policy, we have implemented the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and we have established our Diocesan Safe Environment Office,” Powers said. “Through the efforts and guidance of this Office, more than 15,000 adults have been background checked and trained to recognize abuse, the grooming behaviors of abusers, and that all abuse of minors must be reported to law enforcement. This number includes some 300 clergy, volunteers, and all adult employees. What began as ‘Safe and Sacred’ training for children (now Circle of Grace) has trained thousands of children. Our children now have a greater sense of their own sanctity and how valuable they are in the eyes of God.”

Local church responds
“There is no way I can defend the indefensible, which is the sinful sexual abuse of minors by clergy,” said Jim Arndt, Deacon and Parish Life Coordinator for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Merrill and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Bloomville (near Gleason).
“The horrible things that some clergy and others have done while serving the Catholic Church causes all of us great sadness and sorrow,” he said. “My hope and the hope of the Diocese is that we can all continue to work together to prevent horrid events like these from ever happening again.”

Report abuse
“Again, I extend my deepest apology and sympathy to victims, survivors, their family members, and all the faithful of the Diocese of Superior,” Powers said. “As a Diocese, we are committed to openness and transparency. I strongly urge all victims of clergy abuse to report their abuse to local law enforcement and to Kathy Drinkwine, our Diocesan Coordinator of Assistance, at 715.718.1110 (cell) anytime, 715.394.0216 (office), and via email: [email protected].”

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