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Pewaukee priest accused of inappropriately touching teenage girl

Posted at 5:47 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 18:47:45-04

A Waukesha County priest is accused of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl in a confessional at church.

Father Chuck Hanel, the long-time pastor of Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Pewaukee is charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child. 

The teenage girl was an altar server and reader at the church. According to the criminal complaint, she claims Father Hanel “touched her breast over her clothes, then rested his hand on her leg near her privates” while she was face to face with him inside a confessional. She said her parents were inside the church when it happened last December.

The criminal complaint says she told her parents about it in April. They reported the incident to another priest at the church, who alerted the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and local authorities.

The girl met with a counselor at the Waukesha Care Center to detail what happened. The Care Center provided recorded forensic interviews for investigators to use and medical evaluations, therapy and victim/family support at no cost. 

“Instead of a child who’s been through abuse, having to go to the police department and/or hospital, they can come here and have those services in one safe place,” says Faith Holley-Beal, the Waukesha Care Center’s Family Service Director. “Then we have advocates work with the victim and family. Whatever support they need. This is traumatic for everyone.  We follow up with them too. It’s not just the day they’re here that they’re going to feel the impact of what happened.”

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released this statement:

“On September 5, 2018, the Waukesha County District Attorney’s office filed charges against Father Chuck Hanel, the pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish in Pewaukee. The allegation was first reported on April 29, 2018, and Fr. Hanel was removed from ministry when the allegation was reported. He remains on administrative leave until the charge is resolved. We continue to cooperate with authorities in this process, and now that a charge has been filed, we will await for the justice system to follow its course to a final resolution of the allegation. Fr. Hanel denies the allegation. No other allegations have ever been received by the archdiocese or civil authorities about Fr. Hanel.”

Father Hanel hired high-profile attorney Jerome Buting, who says the criminal complaint is completely one-sided. 

“Father Chuck is absolutely innocent,” Buting says. “He has never, and would never do what he’s accused of in the complaint. We understand this is a difficult time for the Catholic Church, but this is not a referendum on the sex abuse scandal. This is a single accusation by an adolescent girl against a priest who has faithfully served the Milwaukee archdiocese for 35 years without a hint of inappropriate conduct with a minor, let alone a girl who was in a confessional with her father right outside. These accusations are completely false and I will prove it in court.”

Father Chuck Hanel's first court appearance is October 15th.