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US archbishop releases clerical abuse documents in hope of bringing healing

By on Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)

An American archbishop has said that he decided to release almost 7,000 pages of documents related to clerical abuse in the hope of bringing healing to the victims and their families.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee made the comments in an email entitled “Love One Another”, a communiqué to priests and others involved in ministry in his archdiocese. He sent the message six days before the archdiocese posted the documents on its website, Archmil.org, yesterday.

“My hope in voluntarily making these documents public is that they will aid abuse survivors, families and others in understanding the past, reviewing the present and allowing the church in southeastern Wisconsin to continue moving forward”, he wrote.

Among the documents released are depositions of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba and Cardinal Timothy Dolan taken in Chapter 11 proceedings. Cardinal Dolan, now New York’s archbishop, headed the Milwaukee archdiocese from 2002 to 2009.

Cardinal Dolan said he was grateful his deposition was included. Both giving the deposition and it being released with the other materials was “a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee,” he added.

“Responding to victim-survivors, taking action against priest-abusers, and working to implement policies to protect children, were some of the most difficult, challenging, and moving events” of his time as Milwaukee’s archbishop, he said, adding that he was guided by the “need for transparency and openness”.

“The sexual abuse of minors is a crime and it is a sin,” Cardinal Dolan said. “The Church must remain rigorous in our response when an allegation of abuse is received, and ever-vigilant in maintaining our safeguards to do all that we can to see that children are protected.”

In his “Love One Another” email, Archbishop Listecki said that “there are some terrible things described in many of the documents”.

“Reading accounts of sexual abuse, whether by a priest, teacher, coach or family member, [is] ugly and unpleasant,” he wrote, adding he worries about the reactions of abuse survivors when confronted again with this material.

The archbishop noted he also worried about the effect the document release would have on Catholics and the general population.

“News about this topic can shake one’s faith. In fact, if you decide to go and review this material, prepare to be shocked,” he wrote.

Maryangela Layman Roman is on the staff of the Catholic Herald, a publication serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin