Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement


Victims alarmed former La Crosse Bishop will head Vatican Sex abuse trials

Burke appears to have “cleared” higher percentage of accused priests than any
bishop in U.S.

* * Six times higher than national average of all other dioceses * *

- - Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, Milwaukee, June 27, 2008 - -

The appointment today by the Vatican of the controversial Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, and the former Bishop of the Lacrosse diocese to run, among other things, the Vatican’s worldwide sex abuse court is troubling.

Burke announced his appointment today as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and will be reassigned to Rome. The position is somewhat like the chief justice of a global clerical supreme court, although it has no actual civil legal authority at all, except in the Vatican state.

Burke’s abysmal track record in Wisconsin before his appointment to St. Louis four years ago is well documented. (See the link below to a lengthy investigative piece published in the River Front Times of St. Louis which also documents his poor treatment of victims and his refusal to provide restitution and counseling to those harmed.)

Under a unique Wisconsin 1st amendment court ruling no victim of child rape by clergy can bring a civil case against a bishop or ordained official who covered up or transferred a clerical child molester. Burke, in other words, has never once had to testify under oath or release documents concerning how he handled priest sex offenders here.

While in La Crosse (and in St. Louis) he also has refused to release the identities and settlement locations of priests and religious even when he determined they were child molesters.

Perhaps even more alarming is Burke’s continual elevation of Catholic “canon law,” or the internal regulations and codes of the church, over civil and state criminal statutes for child rape and sexual assault.

Before the 2002 U.S. Bishop’s Dallas Charter, Burke was quoted in the LaCrosse press saying that in accusations against priests for child sexual assault, so- called canon “law” trumps civil law. He never rescinded that position. In an interview with the LaCrosse newspaper after the Charter was passed he explained: a conversation between priests and their bishop about child abuse will not be reported to civil authorities because of it’s “sacred” bond.

That certainly explains why Burke’s record of substantiating abuse allegations is the worst in the United States. Priests in the diocese of Lacrosse are six times less likely to be found by their bishop to have assaulted children than any other diocese in the United States.

Is it wise to appoint a man who places the still medieval laws of bishops and cardinals concerning child rape over civil and law enforcement authorities?

And Burke will not only by judge and jury for cases around the United States, but around the world. Fewer than ten percent of Catholics live in the U.S.

The widespread sexual abuse of children and the cover up of child sex crimes by church officials poses a major global human rights threat to children.

In our country alone, nearly 6,000 sex offender clergy have been acknowledged by church officials to have sexually assaulted children.

If this number holds worldwide, there are likely over 20,000 sex offender clerics operating across the globe.

During the Pope’s American visit in April, Cardinal William Levada told surprised reporters that cases of child sex abuse by priests are being forwarded to his office from around the world and that there is a serious backlog of cases that have not been handled yet. Levada has Pope Benedict’s old job, running the Office for the Congregation of the Faith. In 2002 all child rape and sex abuse cases by priests around the world are forwarded to that office. Now, the most serious cases of child rape and pedophilia, and all the sordid criminal evidence with it, will go from that office to Raymond Burke.

Why is the Vatican collecting criminal evidence on world wide pedophilia in the first place? Why isn’t it, instead, forwarding this criminal evidence to national and international criminal authorities for arrest and prosecution?

In fact, in modern times at least, there is not one recorded instance of the Vatican ever turning over to criminal authorities or human rights organizations anywhere on earth information and evidence on clergy pedophiles.

It’s a safe bet Raymond Burke won’t be calling criminal and human rights authorities in his new job.

Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259
Mary Guenter, SNAP Wisconsin, 414.418.3191

-Links to news stories referenced in statement below--


- - On Burke’s new Vatican position:

- - Figures on sex abuse allegations against priests in the LaCrosse Diocese:

- - The St. Louis River Front Times investigation of Burke in LaCrosse:

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests