Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Confronting 'nauseating news'

Someone's dropped a bomb somewhere,
Contaminating atmosphere
And blackening the sky,
It's good news week...
--Hedghoppers Anonymous

Archbishop Timothy Dolan in the "Herald of Hope" column in "our" Milwaukee Catholic Herald, January 31, 2008.
Since my arrival as your archbishop, I have promised to try my best to be open and candid with you, the faithful Catholics of the church in southeastern Wisconsin. Part of that openness has been my commitment to share news with you - even when it's bad.

For example, you'll remember in summer of 2006, I told you about lawsuits facing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for sexual abuse cases involving former priests Siegfried Widera and Franklyn Becker, and the pending financial consequences of those lawsuits.

Didn't those cases result from a 2002 change in California law? And weren't they filed in 2003? And wasn't it 2003 when a California appellate court Ruling lets victim sue archdiocese here? Maybe he believes he told us as much as he could as soon as he could. Maybe he's right about that. Maybe he needs to say more about why the openness comes right before the "nauseating news" so it's less likely to come across as spin.
In July 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down a decision directing that cases alleging fraud by the archdiocese about sexual abuse by two accused priests of the archdiocese could proceed, even though the events were 20-to-40-years old.

It almost makes one start to question our Archdiocese's approach to litigation management.
In addition, since July 2007, two other cases have been brought against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D., alleging sexual abuse in Wisconsin by a different priest, Bruce MacArthur.

Lawsuits involve discovery, that is, requiring the other side, here our Archdiocese, to provide information and documents.
During the next weeks, the records of these three accused priests will be part of court proceedings, and we can expect they will be given to the media. Thus, I am using my column to let you know of the sordid information that will be forthcoming.

He seems to mean that he thinks it would be better if this information wasn't disclosed, but if he can't prevent disclosure, he'll tell us first. Again, this might be justifiable but won't be everyone's idea of openness.
In the past, people could point and say the Catholic Church is a sad example of what NOT to do, as some of this data will embarrassingly show. Now, however, even outside, objective observers say the Catholic Church is an example of what TO do.

Because child-molesting priests were shuffled from parish to parish then, we Sunday School teachers undergo background checks and "safe environment" training now. (So when I say I'm an untrained catechist, I'm not counting this.)
It is also why I directed an independent mediation system established in 2004 to come to resolution with victims/survivors.

Wouldn't "independent mediation" not be something "I directed ... established"?

I yield the last word.
May I also ask that you pray for our church, especially our church in southeastern Wisconsin, that the Holy Spirit continue to guide us and give us strength to get through this, and that his church be cleansed, purified and renewed by the agony of this scandal, sin and suffering.


  1. You said a mouthful in the "litigation management" line.

    The news will not get worse--other than the financial details.

  2. suburban mom9:28 AM

    So if these cases were filed in 2003, then I guess Archbishop couldn't have done anything immediately upon his arrival as you begged for in an earlier post?

  3. Suburban Mom, if he had no inkling of the existence of these claims until the process server showed up at the Chancery, then I agree. That's not the impression I get from what we've been told.