A retired Catholic priest with earlier ties to a Janesville church faces charges of sexually assaulting a minor in Jefferson County.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Diocese of Madison said the Rev. William Nolan, a retired priest who last served at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson, was charged Thursday in Jefferson County Court with “six counts” of “second-degree assault of a minor.”

The statement, which The Gazette obtained Thursday from the diocese’s Twitter page, said the charges released Thursday pertain to a period of time between 2002 and 2007, when Nolan served at the Fort Atkinson church.

Nolan retired at his own discretion in 2007 and no longer has any ecclesiastical office or function, the diocese said Thursday. However, a diocesan official has placed Nolan on “administrative leave,” an action the diocese said is part of national policy.

The diocese said it had “recently learned” Nolan was arrested by Fort Atkinson police. The diocese then learned of the allegations in the criminal charges released Thursday.

Nolan previously served churches in Janesville, Cambridge, Madison and Watertown, the diocese said in the statement.

The diocese said it “had received no allegations of misconduct connected to any of his assignments” and that “this is the very first the diocese has heard of these accusations.”

The diocese did not give details of the allegations in its statement. However, it said it had started its own investigation and had engaged its own sexual abuse review board.

The diocese said it has assured police “full cooperation.”

In response to a Gazette inquiry Thursday evening, a Fort Atkinson Police Department official said the police chief would have to review a formal information request before the department would consider releasing details of Nolan’s arrest.

According to Gazette reports, Nolan was a witness in a separate defamation suit in 2005 that was filed in Rock County Court by the Rev. Gerald Vosen.

Vosen at the time was trying to prove through a civil suit that a Janesville man had falsely accused Vosen of sexual assault and had defamed him, according to the Gazette report.

The 2005 Gazette report indicated that Nolan, a Fort Atkinson resident, had been a “former assistant” to Vosen, who was a former pastor at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Janesville.

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