Clergy-Abuse Mediation Begins
Archdiocese Officials Meet with Survivors' Group Representatives

By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Sentinel Journal [Milwaukee WI]
December 18, 2003

A landmark mediation effort that could involve more than 50 victims of clergy sexual abuse began Thursday afternoon as Archdiocese of Milwaukee officials, including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, met with representatives of the victims.

The session, requested by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was arranged by Eva Soeka, the Marquette University professor whom Dolan named last month to design and manage a new dispute resolution system that church officials hope will finally heal festering sexual abuse issues.

Although Soeka is still designing that system for individual cases, the eagerness of the survivors network to move ahead quickly with a group mediation while sexual-abuse legislation is still pending in Madison helped prompt Thursday's meeting.

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske will serve as a mediator for the group effort, along with Daniel Blinka, like Geske a professor at Marquette University Law School, the victims group said. Soeka, a nationally respected mediator and director of the Center for Dispute Resolution Education at Marquette, is participating as an observer.

"We're very optimistic," Jerry Topczewski, Dolan's administrative assistant and delegate for communication, said after the closed-door session at an undisclosed location. "We were very happy with the session today. It's an ongoing process.

"The issues are complex. I think they require patience to work through."

Peter Isely, a SNAP regional director from Milwaukee, attended the session with James Smith, an attorney representing SNAP. Isely had hoped the mediation could be done relatively quickly but he remained upbeat Thursday evening.

"We're meeting again in early January," Isely said. "It really was a day of laying down the groundwork and sort of mapping out the issues. In that regard, I pretty much agree with Jerry. It was positive, productive. I think there's a real desire on everybody's part to reach a comprehensive, long-lasting resolution to all these issues."

In addition to Dolan and Topczewski, the archdiocese was represented at Thursday's session by Barbara Anne Cusack, archdiocesan chancellor and delegate for sexual abuse issues, and David Muth, an attorney with Quarles & Brady, the archdiocese's law firm.


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