Group Says Bishop Should Resign
Victim: Banks Doesn't Deserve Absolution in Sex Abuse Cases
By Steve Wideman
Post-Crescent [Green Bay WI]
August 23, 2003
GREEN BAY — Criminal charges may not be warranted, but Green Bay Bishop Robert Banks should resign for his role in the Archdiocese of Boston abuse scandals, says a member of a victims support group.
Banks, who served for six years as second-in-command under Cardinal Bernard Law, failed to investigate cases of priest sex abuse of children and hampered criminal investigations into priest abuse cases, according to a July 23 grand jury report issued by Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Thomas F. Reilly.
"It is very frustrating as you read this report and it states clearly the gross negligence of Bishop Banks and yet nothing can be done to take legal action against him," said David Schauer, a member of the Wisconsin chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"At a minimum, Bishop Banks needs to take himself out of the position he is in," said Schauer, who alleges that a former Green Bay priest sexually abused him.
Schauer said the group will pass out leaflets Sunday at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay urging parishioners to support legislation strengthening laws involving clergy sex abuse.
Banks was out of town and unavailable for comment Friday, but diocese officials released a July 23 statement by Banks, in which he says he had not seen the grand jury report.
"While well-intentioned at the time, I deeply regret that I did not act more decisively in taking out of ministry those who abused our children and young people," Banks said in the statement.
"For this I am truly sorry and I ask those who were hurt to forgive me."
Renae Bauer, a diocese spokeswoman, said Friday she did not know if Banks had read the report.
A lawsuit by Schauer, who lives in Wisconsin Rapids, against former Green Bay priest Donald Buzanowski was dismissed July 23, because of statute of limitations concerns. Schauer said the legislation, which would add members of the clergy to the list of mandatory reporters of sexual abuse, fails to include victim compensation.
"We need to make sure laws are changed to protect future generations and to include compensation for past victims of clergy abuse," he said.
The legislation was introduced in July by state Rep. Peggy Krusick, D-Milwaukee, and state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
Bauer issued a statement Friday saying the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, representing all five state dioceses, supports the bills as do the Wisconsin Council of Churches and the Wisconsin Jewish Conference.
The leaflet passing in Green Bay Sunday comes a day after the one-month anniversary of the release of the Massachusetts report. The 18-month probe of the Boston archdiocese found 789 allegations of sexual abuse against 237 priests between 1940 and 2000. Of those allegations, 48 occurred during Law's tenure as archbishop. He served from 1984 to this year.
Banks, who submitted his resignation as required by the Vatican when he turned 75 on Feb. 26, was appointed vicar of administration under Law in 1984 and remained in that position until he came to Green Bay in 1990. Banks can remain as bishop until the Vatican announces a replacement.
In Boston, Banks both supervised and had direct involvement in the handling of clergy abuse matters, according to the report. The report said Banks:
n Failed to adequately investigate or direct investigations in clergy abuse cases.
n Clearly preferred to keep priests who sexually abused children in pastoral ministry and generally refrained from restricting their duties even in the face of conflicting medical opinions regarding the appropriateness of continuing in ministerial duties.
n Failed to report allegations of clergy sexual abuse of children to law enforcement or seek advice from public authorities in handling such investigations.
The grand jury report notes Banks "was not candid" with police during interviews in the criminal investigation of former priest John Geoghan. In February 2002, Geoghan was sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison for molesting a 10-year-old boy.
According to the report, Banks failed in 1989 to tell police investigating another abuse allegation against Geoghan that he was aware of past allegations against Geoghan, that Geoghan had admitted sexually abusing children and that a psychiatrist had recommended that the archdiocese "better clip his wings before there is an explosion."
In another case, the report said Banks argued against sending a priest convicted of sexually assaulting a child to prison.
The grand jury said Banks did not tell Massachusetts court officials that Father Eugene O'Sullivan had abused other children.
O'Sullivan was subsequently sentenced to five years' probation and sent by the archdiocese to Canada for treatment.
Following treatment Banks urged the transfer of O'Sullivan to a New Jersey parish, albeit with a warning to O'Sullivan's new bosses of his past record, but without recommending the priest's contact with children be limited.
"In this instance, the Archdiocese was willing to risk O'Sullivan sexually abusing a child in another diocese even though he had been convicted of sexually abusing a child in the Archdiocese," the grand jury report said.
On Friday, the archdiocese said it was increasing its financial settlement with hundreds of alleged sexual abuse victims by $10 million, up from $55 million announced Aug. 8 to settle more than 500 lawsuits.
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