Monday, January 18, 2010

Richard's poor almanac

Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba looks back on Anniversaries large and small, since his 1959 ordination, in the bishops' column in our Archdiocesan weekly.
The terrible sadness of the sexual abuse crisis and the need to claim the responsibility we each bear for that tragedy has scarred the past two decades. There have been so many victims ... including all who clumsily tried to do the right thing without truly understanding the depth of the wound.
Contrast that to Archbishop Listecki dismissing that wound as emotion. From these contrary premises they each manage to reach a conclusion excusing inaction.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Archbishop Dolan's initial (October 22, 2002) meeting at which Priest-abuse victims share their grief. Bishop Sklba was in attendance.
"Victims of sexual abuse and their families truly know the meaning of a broken heart," said Karen Cerniglia, whose son, Joe, said he was sexually abused in his early teens by Father William Effinger in a rectory in Lake Geneva. Effinger died in prison after being convicted of abusing a boy and accused of other abuse.

"I want you to know that I trusted and believed in Archbishop (Rembert G. Weakland) and in you," she said to Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba. "However, my faith was completely shattered."

Cerniglia said she was heartened when she met Sklba at a parish gathering and he promised to call her by-then adult son to talk to him. She gave Sklba his number, but no call was ever received.

"Is that a compassionate and caring way to treat my son?" she asked.

Sklba, described by others as a compassionate and good man, acknowledged the conversation. He said he tried several times to reach her son, but the calls were unanswered.

"Ever since then, I have been burdened with a sense of failure," Sklba said. "I do know I tried to do that."

The mother's retort: He could have called her.
One might be tempted to read Bishop Sklba's response to her as not claiming responsibility, nor even clumsily trying to do the right thing. If this experience, and some ongoing sense of failure, motivated him to finally complete the call, I haven't seen it reported in the seven-plus years since.

Also from the Journal Sentinel report,
During the meeting, Sklba took much of the wrath expressed by victims, particularly from those abused by the late Father George Nuedling in Twin Lakes.

One of Nuedling's victims asked why Sklba had sent a priest to another parish after learning of abuse in 1996.

"Why not report it to the police? Why did you not try to find other victims?" the man asked.

"He was not in rehabilitation. It's terrible, Bishop Sklba. Victims can't have peace until they have justice."
Sounds familiar.

I return to the bishop's column to give him the last word.
it is the Gospel of truth and justice, of compassion and healing which must continue to be proclaimed ... to ourselves as well as to the entire world.


  1. Or maybe the good bishop should read his Proverbs more closely:

    "It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the innocent of justice." (18:5)

  2. ...and Pilate asked "What is truth?"

    (sounds of hand washing...)