Catholic priest stands trial for alleged child sex abuse - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Catholic priest stands trial for alleged child sex abuse

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MADISON (WKOW) -

Father Joseph Gibbs Clauder sat stoically as Dane County Assistant District Attorney Bob Kaiser told the jury lurid tales of how the priest sexually abused a 14 year-old-girl.

Kaiser described one incident that supposedly took place on the victim's own bed in the spring of 2004.

"His hand moved up her leg and touched that pubic area," said Kaiser. "He touched that area with his hand and he said to her, 'Its ok. This is what people do when they love and care for each other and I love and care for you.'"

It was what Father Clauder allegedly said next that, according to Kaiser, really scared the victim.

"And (he) told her that if she ever told anyone, the priest said, God would be angry with her and she would go to hell," Kaiser told the jury.

But, Clauder's attorney discredits the victim as a mentally ill young woman who imagined the abuse.

Steve Eisenberg said she's imagined a lot of things.

"She talks about being at Shopko in 2008 and God was stalking her," Eisenberg told jurors. "She has hallucinations, both auditory and visual." 

The prosecution portrayed the victim's mental state as worsening after the alleged abuse, but Eisenberg said her problems go back years before that.

"She had suicidal thoughts for one year and she first started feeling depressed in eighth grade," said Eisenberg. 

The victim did not bring the allegations against Clauder to light until 2009 and Eisenberg claims that raises even more doubt.

But, a state expert on child sex abuse testified that should not be a factor for the jury to consider.

"Delayed disclosure is normative and its actually what happens most of the time," said Dr. Anna Salter, a psychologist who specializes in child sex abuse reporting.

Clauder was a priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona, until 1999. 

That's when an adult woman publicly announced she'd had a sexual relationship with Clauder.

The Madison Catholic Diocese then removed Clauder, but he is still a priest under church law.

Clauder's trial is expected to last for several days.

Prosecutors did not indicate whether or not the victim will testify.

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