Victims Give Dolan Poor Marks

By Marie Rohde
Journal Sentinel Online
June 25, 2002

Victims of sexual abuse by priests on Tuesday gave Archbishop-elect Timothy Dolan low marks for his handling of such claims.

Dolan, who was named archbishop of the Milwaukee Archdiocese on Tuesday, has overseen the St. Louis Archdiocese's response to sexual abuse as auxiliary bishop for the last five months.

Barbara Dorris, a St. Louis woman who said she was abused by one priest and witnessed another priest abuse children in a Catholic school where she was a teacher, said Dolan called for victims to come forward but failed to respond to them when they did.

"I've called him, and I've written him, but neither was answered," said Dorris, an outspoken critic of the church's handling of abuse cases. "I have obviously committed some unforgivable sin or he wouldn't ignore me."

Dorris said she was abused for seven years, beginning when she was 7 years old. She said she and two other adults also witnessed a priest indecently touching young children and reported it to the church. But the man remains in the ministry, she said.

Steven Pona, who said he was abused by a priest in 1983 when he was 14, said Dolan returned his call but the two had not spoken. Pona said he knew of no victims who had met with Dolan.

St. Louis Archbishop Justin Rigali promised to meet with victims six weeks ago but hasn't followed through, Pona said.

"I hope Dolan has more courage than Rigali, but from all the signs I've seen I don't think that's the case," Pona said.

A spokesman for the St. Louis Archdiocese could not be reached for comment.

Dolan arrived in St. Louis in August and was put in charge of the sexual abuse problem in February. A month later, two priests were removed from their ministry, proof Dolan said, that the diocese's stricter policy was working.

But some victims - and an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch - questioned the church's policy that an allegation must be "substantiated."

In St. Louis, Dolan lived at the Our Lady of Sorrows rectory with two other priests, both of whom have been charged with sexual misconduct in recent months.

Father Gary Wolken, 36, was arrested in June and charged with two counts of felony statutory sodomy and six counts of child molestation involving a 10-year-old boy he is accused of assaulting beginning in '97 when the child was in kindergarten.

Wolken was placed on leave in March, the same month that Father Michael Campbell left the ministry after he admitted in a letter to parishioners that he had "inappropriately touched a young adult male who was almost 18 years old" about 13 years earlier.

Dolan read Campbell's letter to the congregation and added that the priest remained a close friend. Dolan noted that the priest had acknowledged the inappropriateness of his conduct. He said he continues to trust Campbell so much that he will continue to go to him for confession.

Peter Isely, a spokesman for victims of sexual abuse in Milwaukee, called on Dolan to meet with sexual abuse victims here.

"The meeting with victims and their families should be the first thing he does in Milwaukee, not the last," Isely said. "We're waiting for his call."


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