A retired former Fort Atkinson Catholic priest is expected to face allegations of sexual assault that occurred during his tenure at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the community.
The Rev. William A. Nolan, 64, was arrested Tuesday by the Fort Atkinson Police Department at 12:35 p.m. on multiple allegations of sexual assault of a child under 12 and repeated sexual assault of a child.
If those are the charges, he would face a maximum sentence of 60 years on each count, if convicted. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office determines what the actual charge(s) would be.
Nolan is expected to make an initial appearance in court this afternoon before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Weston. He currently is in custody at the Jefferson County Jail.
The alleged assaults took place at the priest’s office at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Endl Boulevard in Fort Atkinson and at the rectory located at 1512 Dommo Drive.
According to the probable cause statement submitted by the Fort Atkinson investigators, the alleged victim reported in April that he had been molested by Nolan over a five-year period from ages 12 to 17.
The specific date cited in the probable cause statement was February 2006. It was not clear if that was the conclusion of the alleged assaults.
The victim reportedly told police that Nolan was the priest at St. Joseph’s at the time he had sexual contact and sexual intercourse with him.
Fort Atkinson Police Chief Adrian Bump noted that he had no reason to believe there were any additional victims.
“I recognize the fact that there is potential that there could be based off the fact that people who engage in this type of behavior sometimes have more than one victim,” he said.
Currently a retired priest-in-residence at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Madison, Nolan served as priest at St. Joseph’s from 2002 to 2007.
His desire to enter seminary came at age 26, after heart surgery.
By that time he already had graduated from Edgewood College with a bachelor’s degree and was a successful businessman managing a hotel in Madison.
Nolan originally was ordained in 1985 and began serving as an associate pastor at St. Henry Catholic Church in Watertown.
He subsequently was assigned as an associate pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Madison.
Exact dates were not available but it is known that he also was assigned to St. John Vianney in Janesville under the Rev. Gerald Vosen.
Years later, Nolan served as a character witness in a defamation lawsuit when accusations of sexual misconduct were brought against Vosen by a male student from St. Vianney.
Under cross-examination, Nolan acknowledged being Vosen’s friend. Asked if it was possible Vosen could have assaulted the man, Nolan testified “Knowing Father Vosen, I’d say it didn’t occur.”
However, court records showed that in Nolan’s deposition an assault in the rectory was “possible” and that because he was not with Vosen every minute of every day, “I cannot say that it did not occur.”
The jury found in favor of the accuser and concluded the allegations substantially were true.
Ultimately, a church investigation found at least one accusation credible and Vosen was placed on formal administrative leave. The local church tribunal judged him guilty of two offenses against the sixth commandment (sexual misconduct) with minors under the age of 16.
The ruling subsequently was confirmed by an appellate tribunal in 2015. Vosen never again was permitted to act publicly as a priest.
Meanwhile, just prior to his time at St. Joseph’s, Nolan is believed to have served a parish in Cambridge.
His tenure at St. Joseph’s from 2002 to 2007, came during a tumultuous time in the parish as a decision was being made whether to move from the longtime site at the corner of North Main Street and Madison Avenue to a new location, subsequently on Endl Bourlevard. The discussion was very divisive among parish members and Nolan took the side of those seeking to move the church and pushed the concept through the parish committees to advance.
The move also faced the challenge of a new bishop, as Bishop Robert C. Morlino took over during that time as well.
Nolan took early retirement in 2007, citing his own heart disease and interest in caring for his own father. He has not had another assignment since.
As part of its investigation, the Fort Atkinson Police Department did review whether his departure related to any allegations.
“There is nothing that is telling us that is the underlying reason he left,” Fort Atkinson Police Chief Bump said. “But who knows.”
While a retired priest, Nolan reportedly remained active in the church. He was a member of a a group called the Association of Madison Priests, an independent group intended to provide fraternity and a unified voice on issues on which they differ with Bishop Morlino.
Brent King, Diocese of Madison director of communications, told the Daily Union that the diocese is aware that Nolan is facing serious charges.
“We will pay close attention to those proceedings and we stand ready to cooperate with those investigating any and all allegations against him,” he said, noting that it would be premature for the diocese to make any statement further than that.