Parishioners Shocked to Find Out Pastor is Under Investigation for Sexual Misconduct Involving a Child After He Doesn’t Show Up for Mass at Catholic Church in North Dakota

Wenceslaus Katanga

When the Rev. Wenceslaus Katanga didn’t show up April 7 for Mass at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Zeeland, parishioners thought he was sick.

Then a statement was read to the congregation, explaining that Katanga was under investigation for alleged misconduct involving a child when he was a priest at Sts. Anne and Joachim Catholic Church in Fargo.

Hearing the news during Mass that day was heartbreaking, said Vivian Schaffner, who has been a member of the Zeeland church for more than 40 years. People in attendance cried, she said, adding that they couldn’t believe the news.

“There is no way he would do this,” she said. “When you see him with our kids, he is not like that. He looks at a kid as a gift from God.”

Not including Katanga, eight clergymen connected to the Fargo Diocese are known to have been accused of sexual misconduct, according to Bishop Accountability, a group that tracks abuse cases involving clergy.

The probe into the allegations against Katanga is still in its early stages, said Fargo police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker. There is no timeline for when the case could be forwarded to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office for review. Criminal charges had not been filed as of Friday.

“After consulting with our investigations division, we are releasing minimal information regarding an allegation of misconduct involving Father Katanga from several years ago since this case is still under investigation,” Schindeldecker said.

It’s unclear whether the child was a member of Sts. Anne and Joachim Church. Police did not divulge when the alleged misconduct occurred, when it was reported or who reported it. Schindeldecker also declined to say whether the allegations were sexual in nature.

Fargo Diocese Bishop John Folda said in a statement that his administration is taking the allegations very seriously.

“I have placed Father Katanga on administrative leave and have removed him from his priestly duties pending a complete investigation of this matter,” he said. “Father Katanga will not be residing at any parish during the period of this investigation.”

Sts. Anne and Joachim Church deferred questions to the diocese, which declined to comment beyond its initial statement. The diocese would not say when Katanga was a priest in Fargo.

“I’ve been made to understand that, at this point, anything I release beyond the original press release could affect the ongoing investigation, and we are cooperating fully with that investigation,” diocese spokesman Paul Braun said.

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SOURCE: The Bismarck Tribune, April Baumgarten