Saturday, April 20, 2013

It depends on what the meaning of the word 'safe' is.

This past week we learned Milwaukee Catholic officials knew of California sex abuse allegations against priest.
"Catholic Church officials in Milwaukee had known for 10 months that Father Robert Marsicek was under investigation on suspicion of molesting two children in California, according to the Sacramento diocese.

"But they did not move to suspend him from his duties at two local parishes and schools until a new allegation surfaced at a Wauwatosa school last month.
"Father Joseph Rodrigues [of the Society of the Divine Savior] said no steps were taken to restrict Marsicek from parishes or schools because to do so might have compromised the California investigation. Topczewski said that is in keeping with the archdiocese's policy in such cases."

So we have know way of knowing if any priest serving in our Archdiocese is the subject of an investigation for child sexual abuse? And were our Archdiocese and the Salvatorians legally obligated to leave him in place because of the investigation? The article doesn't say so, while our Archdiocese's Policies, Procedures, and Protocols for Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors: Prevention and Response [pdf] say (page i),
"The guiding principle behind all policies, procedures, and protocols must be the prudent protection of children, not just the punishment of offenders."
As to the Salvatorians, when announcing Fr. Marsicek's suspension,
"...Rodrigues told the Journal Sentinel he did not know of any other allegations against Marsicek. On Tuesday, he defended that statement, noting that he had been careful to say the order did not have any other allegations 'from a victim.' In the Sacramento case, the allegations came to the order through the diocese."
Matthew 5:37 comes to mind.

Not surprisingly at this point,

"a former Manitowoc County woman reported to the Journal Sentinel and the Salvatorians additional allegations against Marsicek from when he served in a parish there in the 1970s. She supplied an email exchange this week between her mother and a victim assistance coordinator for the Salvatorians, in which the coordinator says: 'I also can assure you that Fr. Marsicek is not - and will not - be working with children of any age now or in the future.'

"Efforts to reach the victim assistance coordinator were not successful Tuesday; however, Rodrigues confirmed that he was aware of the exchange."

In the next day's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel we read Numerous complaints made against suspended Wauwatosa priest, report shows, complaints to the police department in Wauwatosa.
"Father Robert Marsicek, who is also under investigation in Sacramento, Calif., had been repeatedly counseled by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and his religious order, the Society of the Divine Savior, about 'boundary issues' and was told to stop hugging and touching children."
Details of 'boundary issues' are provided in the article.
"Two Milwaukee archbishops had been made aware of other complaints over the years, Archbishop Jerome Listecki in June and then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan - now cardinal and archbishop of New York - in 2005.

"Yet there appears to have been no attempt to remove Marsicek from the two Catholic schools he served until Wauwatosa police banned him from the schools while they investigated the latest complaint in March."

Why not? Did the reports come to our Archdiocese through the Salvatorians and so not 'from a victim'?
"Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said boundary issues are not cause to remove a priest from ministry, and the archdiocese responded properly to every report.

" 'Boundary issues are NOT sexual abuse,' Topczewski said in an email criticizing media for reporting on the Marsicek investigations."

So we have no way of knowing if any priest serving in our Archdiocese has a continuing problem of 'boundary issues' with children? If you haven't read the early part of the article about what constitutes 'boundary issues', now might be the time.

In my account of our Archdiocese's May 16, 2002 listening session on clergy sexual abuse, I summed up,

"Including Stible's piece [in the handouts] was a last straw for many of the attendees, who said that the term 'listening session' mislead them as to what to expect. They resented that public input came after the recommendations were made, rather than before they were developed. They resented being told what questions to answer and how to go about answering them. They found the materials provided slanted. They became convinced that the purpose of of the sessions was to manipulate them into expressing some ambivalence about a zero tolerance policy. So now, even if, as appears certain, a zero tolerance policy is adopted, people have been given reason to suspect that it will be enforced grudgingly or even evaded."
Their suspicions continue to be confirmed, as far as I can see.

This week, for me, also included attending a memorial service at Marquette University Law School of one of its alumni who went on to a career that included several decades as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. His colleagues on that bench attended, and then a three-judge panel of the court heard arguments in three cases. The first was John Doe A-49 v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee (No. 12-3689). What's that case about? At this point, I suppose I can say What else? It's a claim involving misrepresentation of a priest's history of sexual abuse.

Next week is our Archdiocese's Safe Environment Week.

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