Hundreds in Milwaukee reported abuse by clergy
Milwaukee Archdiocese gives details on numbers
By TOM HEINEN-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sept. 17, 2003
In its first public accounting of victims, the Archdiocese
of Milwaukee reported Wednesday that 250 to 300 people have
contacted it since 1994 for help with problems related to
the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
Although the total included family members of those allegedly
abused, most of the people were victims, said Jerry Topczewski,
archdiocesan communications director.
The information was contained in an "Accountability
Report" being mailed this week along with a letter from
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to Catholic households throughout
the 10-county archdiocese.
The report, more detailed than one Dolan issued last September
shortly after he was installed as archbishop, also has been
provided to two state legislative committees that are holding
a joint hearing today on a new bill intended to better protect
the public from sexual abusers in the clergy of any denomination
In a cover letter that accompanies the report, Dolan says,
"The first steps have been taken. Wrong has been admitted
and the circumstances made known. The Archdiocese has taken
steps to be very public about what happened, and caring and
compassionate toward those victimized."
Dolan promises in the letter that the archdiocese will follow
its policies and meet all of the new requirements adopted
by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, adding that he
will work to "make sure the Church in the United States
adheres to its pledge of justice for victim-survivors, and
accountability for perpetrators of these crimes."
The new report stops short of identifying perpetrators, something
victim advocates and some legislators want.
"I join survivor-victims in their call for fair and
just settlements, and urge the Catholic Church to release
the names of all abusive priests in Wisconsin," said
Rep. Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee), an author of the pending
sexual abuse legislation. "It's important that these
molesters be identified to protect children from future abuse."
When Dolan first arrived here, he said he would follow recommendations
of an archdiocesan sexual abuse commission and release all
names. He later changed his mind.
Topczewski acknowledged that advocates for disclosure cite
good reasons, including encouraging other victims to come
But he said Dolan and archdiocesan officials listened to
concerns raised by some victims, who said publicizing their
perpetrators' names would force them to relive their abuse,
or might indirectly identify them as victims. Officials also
considered such things as the impact of disclosure on deceased
priests' families, he said.
45 priests involved
Substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors have been
made against 45 present or former priests, 15 of whom are
now dead, over all past years. One deceased deacon and one
former deacon had substantiated allegations against them,
while an unresolved allegation against a third deacon is pending,
the report says.
Although the archdiocese previously reported that at least
43 priests had records of sexual abuse, this was the first
time that allegations against deacons were revealed. Deacons,
most of whom are married, are ordained men who can preach
at Mass and preside at weddings if they have the proper training
but cannot say Mass or hear confessions.
The 45 priests with one or more substantiated records of
abuse represent 4.9% of the 916 diocesan priests who have
served here since 1935, the earliest year for which personnel
lists are published in the archdiocese's current Pastoral
All but two incidents of abuse occurred before 1990, though
some were reported only recently as the nationwide sexual
abuse scandal received publicity and Dolan held public listening
sessions for victims.
The report says that there were allegations against 55 priests,
but that 10 of the cases were not substantiated.
Of the 45 that were: 15 are dead; six left active ministry
or sought laicization (a return to the lay state) prior to
2002; Dolan is asking the Vatican to laicize seven others;
and five are seeking voluntary laicization.
Of the remainder, six are restricted from all active ministry
and from identifying themselves as priests; four others face
the possibility of a canonical trial; one has appealed his
case to Rome; and one case is still under investigation.
Thirty of the living perpetrators have been publicly identified
by the archdiocese, victims or the news media, the report
says. Of the others, six are in serious ill health or are
advanced in age, and four are no longer in active ministry
and are under restrictions not to identify themselves as priests
or to wear clerical garb. The five others were laicized prior
$153,000 spent on therapy
The report repeats some financial information that Topczewski
recently released for the fiscal year that ended June 30 -
including that nearly $153,000 was spent for therapy and other
victim assistance, and that $115,000 was spent for pastoral
mediation agreements with victims. But it also reveals for
the first time that $432,471 was spent on attorney fees "involving
three cases where litigation was filed against the Archdiocese."
Also, the report notes that the archdiocese underwent an
audit in early September by the Gavin Group, the independent
agency selected by the U.S. bishops' Office for Child and
Youth Protection. The report says that the initial results
were positive and that the archdiocese is in full compliance
with the charter requirements adopted by the bishops in Dallas
Today's legislative hearing at the Capitol is on Senate and
Assembly bills that would, among other things: extend time
periods for filing civil or criminal suits against perpetrators;
make it possible for many victims to sue churches for the
actions of their sexually abusive clergy; and require that
clergy report suspected abuse to civil authorities unless
the knowledge came in the sacrament of confession or confidential
However, the bill is drawing criticism from the Survivors
Network of Those Abused by Priests because it doesn't give
past victims an opportunity to file civil suits even if the
statute of limitations in their cases has expired.