Archdiocese of Milwaukee Sex-abuse Victims Push for More Open Records
By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 28, 2013
|Peter Isely (from left), Arthur Budzinski, Father James Connell and Monica Barrett discuss the coming release of priest abuse files in front of Milwaukee’s Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Friday.|
Monica Barrett has waited for years to learn what the Archdiocese of Milwaukee knew about Father William Effinger, who raped her, she says, when she was a child at a Lake Geneva parish.
Her wait is scheduled to end Monday when the archdiocese releases thousands of pages of documents detailing its handling of clergy sex-abuse cases going back decades, as part of its bankruptcy.
Barrett stood Friday with other abuse survivors outside Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist to herald the release as a historic moment that would vindicate victims. But it is not enough, they said.
The survivors and their supporters called on the archdiocese to release all of its files — not just those concerning the 42 current and former diocesan priests covered in Monday's release, but those of every known abuser.
"Every clergy person known to have harmed or assaulted a child — every teacher, every person who worked in the archdiocese — should be on that list," said Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who was sexually assaulted by a Capuchin priest while a student at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary in the 1970s.
"Who is served by not putting everybody on that list?" asked Isely. "Families aren't served; the public is not served; Catholics aren't served. The only people helped by that are the offenders and the people who helped cover it up."
The archdiocese said Friday that it has no responsibility for religious order priests and nuns, and that lay workers in parishes and schools are not its employees — though both of those assertions are in dispute in the bankruptcy.
"Religious orders have been encouraged to be open and candid in their own communications about their members," said Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Jerome Listecki.
The archdiocese is scheduled to release 6,000 pages of documents as part of its bankruptcy, filed in January 2011 to limit its liability in mounting clergy sexual abuse cases.
More than 570 men and women have filed claims in the bankruptcy, alleging the archdiocese defrauded them by moving known sex offenders from one parish or school to the next without divulging their histories. And victims believe that the release of church records will show that.
Focus on 42 priests
Monday's documents will focus on 42 of the 45 current or former diocesan priests named on the archdiocese's website as being restricted or dismissed from ministry for a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor.
Also to be released will be depositions, including documents from the bishops who handled the local church's sex abuse cases for more than 30 years: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who led the Milwaukee archdiocese from 2002 to 2009; his predecessor, Rembert Weakland; and Bishop Richard Sklba, who assisted both as their auxiliary bishop. Weakland and Sklba are retired.
Effinger, who molested several children over the years, died in prison in 1996. He'd been convicted three years earlier of second-degree sexual assault of a boy. Some of his records have already been released as part of previous lawsuits, though Barrett says she was denied access to them when she unsuccessfully sued the church in the 1990s.
Barrett, 52, said she was 8 years old when Effinger raped her on a Saturday afternoon in 1968 at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Geneva. Effinger had insinuated himself into their family, she said, and he and her father would spend hours visiting and drinking together.
During one visit, she said, Effinger told her father that he needed help with the candles in the church and wanted her to go along.
"He told me if I told anyone, they wouldn't believe me and that my parents would burn in hell, which pretty much cemented my silence," she said.
Critical of treatment
When she finally reported it 20 years later, she said, her treatment by the archdiocese wasn't much better. Barrett said the church's psychologists put her through a marathon 15-hour evaluation, and its attorneys cast blame on her family members and deposed everyone she knew.
"They told people about my abuse in ways I wasn't ready to tell," she said.
Barrett expects the documents to be released Monday to vindicate her and possibly hundreds of other survivors, who were victimized, she said, first by their abusers and then by the church.
It's a small consolation, says Barrett, for the loss of her innocence and a burden that has dogged her her entire life.
"Effinger is dead now, but this isn't something you get to leave behind. You walk with it every day of your life," she said.
"There's never a time when it doesn't matter."