Diocese of Madison determines sexual abuse allegations against former priest as credible

Directive asks priests to consider whether to perform funerals of people in same-sex relationships

MADISON, Wis. — The Diocese of Madison announced Friday that sexual abuse allegations against a former priest who served parishes near the Wisconsin River were determined to be credible.

According to a news release, Rev. Patrick Doherty, 85, will be placed on the diocese’s list of priests or former priests who have been credibly accused of acts of sexual abuse against minors. Doherty has been out of ministry since 1993.

Doherty previously worked in a number of smaller parishes along the Wisconsin River, including St. Barnabas, Mazomanie and St. John the Baptist.

Doherty’s accuser, who does not want to be named, said the abuse happened over 40 years ago. The release said Doherty has had struggles with alcoholism and reported disreputable behaviors with adult men that were known to the public.

Bishop Donald Hying shared his agreement with the findings of Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board, according to the release.

The news comes after various releases last year about the review of sexual abuse allegations against clergy of the Diocese of Madison. A spokesperson said the victim came forward about Doherty after the diocese posted a list of credibly-accused priests on its website.

“Upon releasing that information we received a phone call from an individual who wanted to remain anonymous saying, ‘You’re missing a priest. There’s somebody else who needs to be on that list,'” said Brent King, the communications director for the diocese.

The Church continues its investigation on former Catholic priest William Nolan, who was acquitted of criminal charges by a Jefferson County jury. The release said the Church postponed the investigation during Nolan’s trial, but it is expected to conclude by the end of the month.


This is an issue that faces diocese across the country. The Pew Research Center found 27 percent of U.S. Catholics have scaled back Mass attendance in response to the sexual abuse scandals.

King said the diocese’s efforts to name all credibly-accused priests aims to rebuild trust with the community. He emphasized most priests are good people.

“One man’s sins is affecting other priests’ lives is extremely sad,” he said. “And the public’s not to blame for that. It’s the evil perpetrated by a priest anywhere.”

He said victims of sexual abuse by any church employee should contact police as well as the Diocese of Madison by way of the Sexual Misconduct Question and Reporting Line 608-821-3162. Diocese policies regarding sexual abuse allegations, and instructions for making a report of sexual misconduct, are available here.