Church Again Asked to ID Abusive Priests

By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee WI]
March 25, 2004

A local victims group opened a new front Thursday in its efforts to get the names of priests who sexually abused minors made public. It called for Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to release those identities to all pastors, parish trustees, Catholic school principals and guidance counselors, and other professionals.

"If the bishops of Wisconsin, including Archbishop Dolan, do not trust the public or Catholic parents with the information they have concerning known clergy sex offenders, surely they will trust the priests and lay leaders of our church," said Peter Isely, regional coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Noting that a recently passed state law requires all clergy to report the sexual abuse of children, Isely said, "Our new proposal today to the archbishop flows from this basic wisdom of the law, that professionals responsible for the care of children must be given the tools they need to fulfill their duty."

The archdiocese has reported substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors against 46 diocesan priests in the 10-county archdiocese since 1950. At least 14 of those priests are dead, and at least three have left the priesthood. None is in active ministry, officials said.

SNAP, the victims group, has wanted to know who those offenders are and where they live. Isely believes that if religious order priests with substantiated allegations against them were added to the list, the count would reach at least 90.

Isely and several others at a SNAP news conference said they were speaking on behalf of about 70 survivors who have been in group mediation with Dolan and other archdiocese representatives.

Negotiators representing the group walked away from the most recent session March 8, saying they were frustrated by the church's refusal to release the names of offending priests. Archdiocese officials said that issue had not been decided and that they did not know the reason for the walkout until SNAP told the news media.

Dolan was in Washington, D.C., on Thursday on church business. Jerry Topczewski, his spokesman, issued a statement saying the mediation sessions had been working well and that SNAP did not respond to Dolan's invitation to return to the talks.

Isely said Dolan's invitation was made through the news media, not directly to SNAP. He said that Jim Smith, the attorney representing the group, called the mediator Wednesday to set up another session and submitted a written request Thursday that included the new proposal.