Diocese releases name of suspended priest

A retired Catholic priest has been suspended from any active role in the Diocese of Superior in the wake of allegations he engaged in sexual activities with a young man.

Fr. Robert Urban

A retired Catholic priest has been suspended from any active role in the Diocese of Superior in the wake of allegations he engaged in sexual activities with a young man.

Fr. Robert Urban, 77, retired from active ministry 13 years ago but still occasionally helped out at church functions. According to Richard Lyons, director of administrative services for the diocese, those activities ceased April 1.

"He is not permitted to function as a priest for the Diocese of Superior," Lyons said, adding that the suspension will remain in effect while authorities investigate.

Wednesday morning, Capt. Chad La Lor confirmed the Superior Police Department is investigating allegations of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature in connection to a retired Catholic priest. He said the alleged incident occurred within the last few months.

"The allegations appear to be dated when the alleged victim would have been an adult," La Lor stated in a news release.


Bishop Peter Christensen, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Superior, received a secondhand report April 1 that Urban may have had inappropriate contact with a person who may or may not be under the age of 18, according to a diocese press release.

Lyons said the church contacted the district attorney's office when the allegation came to light and made a report to social services the following day. He said the case was handled in accordance with church policies, which also require an automatic suspension.

"Right now, all we know is that maybe something happened ...," Lyons said.

According to the diocese release, there had never before been allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor leveled against the now-suspended priest. Urban served as the pastor of St. William's Church in Foxboro from 1970-87, as well as other diocese churches in Cable, Hurley and Glenwood City. From 1963 to 1987, Urban worked as editor of the diocesan newspaper, "The Catholic Herald."

Verne Wagner, a Duluth resident and victim of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, praised Christensen for his actions.

"We, victims of abuse, always talk about wanting transparency," he said. "If the bishop did the right thing here, we need to say thank you."

Lyons said the allegations are based on second- and third-hand reports, and he doesn't even know the full name of the alleged victim.

"Someone told someone who said something may have happened, but we have to take it seriously," Lyons said, explaining the diocese will stay out of the way of a formal investigation.


"We don't want to do anything that would interfere with the authorities doing the investigation they need to do," he said.

Wagner said he heard about the allegations from a parishioner who learned of his history in local media reports. He said a parishioner approached him with concerns about the retired priest and allegations that he had paid young men for sex.

Wagner, in turn, shared what he had been told with Bishop Christensen, as did the parishioner.

Wagner called on the bishop to encourage former parishioners in the retired priest's congregation, as well as members of the diocese, to step forward and share any knowledge of past abuse.

"If he's the leader of the flock, I think he needs to reach out to other potential victims," Wagner said. "A lot of victims feel so alone, and they fear they're not going to be believed."

People with information about sexual abuse in the Superior Diocese are asked to contact the Superior Police Department's investigations unit at (715) 395-7530 or 395-7652.

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