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Details emerge on accused priest, investigation

When Edwin Hall's 91-year-old wife died in 2008, he specifically asked the Rev. Robert Urban to come down to Lake Nebagamon from Superior to officiate at her funeral.

The Rev. Robert Urban
The Rev. Robert Urban after morning Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King in summer 2007. Urban has been suspended by the Superior Diocese after an accusation of inappropriate sexual conduct with an adult. [2007 file / Superior Telegram]

When Edwin Hall's 91-year-old wife died in 2008, he specifically asked the Rev. Robert Urban to come down to Lake Nebagamon from Superior to officiate at her funeral.

"He had a good sense of humor and was easy to get along with," he said.

And so, Hall said, it was a shock when he learned that Urban, 77, was the target of a Superior Police investigation for alleged inappropriate sexual conduct with an adult.

On Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Superior publically released Urban's name and more information about him, sending a statement to the media and the parishes where he served. The statement came a day after administrator Richard Lyons confirmed to the News Tribune that Urban had been suspended for the alleged misconduct.

Urban worked in Superior from 1963 to 1987, went to Glenwood City, Wis., for 10 years, then to Chippewa Falls, then returned to Superior where he would fill in occasionally at Mass and funeral services for several churches in northern Wisconsin, Lyons said.


The diocese was notified April 1 of the alleged misconduct, Lyons said, but otherwise no other allegations of misconduct by Urban with either minors or adults have been brought to the diocese.

Lyons said he did not have any information on when the alleged misconduct took place.

The Superior Police Department said it received a report on March 28 and is conducting an investigation into "potentially inappropriate sexual conduct," and added that the alleged victim is an adult, and the allegations "appear to be dated when the alleged victim would have been an adult."

When the diocese was notified of the alleged misconduct, the church immediately contacted the Douglas County District Attorney's office and provided the information, Lyons said.

However, it's unclear what was done with that information.

Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank said his office received what he called "sketchy information" about the alleged abuse from the diocese, but was not given the name of the priest. He said an assistant attorney contacted police with the information, but that he was never told of the allegation until Tuesday.

"I don't have all the details yet," Blank said. "We're trying to sort that out."

Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor said a contact from a party other than the district attorney or the diocese prompted its investigation.


Lyons said it was originally unclear if the alleged victim was a minor or an adult. Under the policy for the Catholic Church in the United States, priest must be suspended following an allegation of child sexual abuse. Urban's faculties were removed under that policy, but he remains under suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, Lyons said.

The priest could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Urban was the editor of the Catholic Herald from 1963 to 1987, and took up writing Christian icons after that, according to a 2005 Catholic Herald article. In 2007, he was part of an effort to gain sainthood for former Superior resident the Rev. Solanus Casey.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Grand Forks Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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