Diocese of
La Crosse, Wisconsin

The Diocese of La Crosse (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1868, encompasses 19 counties in west-central Wisconsin. It consists of 166 parishes, 84 elementary and secondary schools, and one college and serves a population of 215,573 registered Catholics with 31 deacons and 191 diocesan priests. The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, installed as bishop in 1995, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 22-26, 2003.

The information presented below represents conditions as they were found during the week of the audit. Information regarding necessary corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.


To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has had a prevention policy on sexual abuse (including all victims/survivors, not just minors) since 198, revised in 1997 and in 2003 to deal specifically with sexual abuse of children. A Commendation was written for the Diocese’s foresight in establishing an abuse policy early. This policy does not specifically provide for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families, although, in practice, the Diocese does conduct appropriate outreach and pastoral care for victims/survivors and their families. An Instruction was written requiring formalization and implementation of an outreach program as provided for in the Charter. The Diocese does have a victim assistance coordinator, Daniel Lynch, who holds a master of science degree in guidance and counseling and has more than ten years of experience. A diocesan review board, established in 2003, consists of two priests and five respected members of the community, including an attorney, a psychologist, and a retired law enforcement official; however, the board has not formalized its own internal rules and protocol. A Recommendation was written concerning this issue. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed and electronic form. The Diocese has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002.

To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has had limited contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations, because no allegations have been reported to the Diocese since June 2002. Policy, however, provides for immediate reporting of allegations to the appropriate authorities. The Diocese does have a procedure for advising victims/ survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities. The Diocese has established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for teachers but not for priests, deacons, and other adults who have regular contact with children. An Instruction was written requiring the development, implementation, and publication of standards of conduct. The Diocese has a communications policy reflecting the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children.

To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Diocese is participating in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

To Protect the Faithful in the Future
The Diocese was found not to have developed or implemented a series of safe environment seminars for presentation to clergy or adults having regular contact with children or for presentation to the children themselves. An Instruction was written requiring the Diocese to develop and implement a safe environment program as required by the Charter (included with the Instruction on standards of conduct). As mentioned above, the Diocese has not publicized standards of conduct for priests and deacons, as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel (except teachers) in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. The Diocese has not completed background investigations on members of the clergy or for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minor, except for teachers in their initial licensing procedure. An Instruction was written directing the Diocese to devise and implement specific policies and procedures for conducting criminal record checks for clergy, employees, and volunteers who have contact with children. The Diocese has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other diocese for ministerial assignment or residence since June 2002. The bishop and the major superiors of orders having a presence in the Diocese have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a clerical member of a religious institute. The Diocese has not had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination, although a criminal record check is not conducted. An Instruction was written (see above) requiring that criminal checks be conducted on candidates for ordination.

Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter

At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of La Crosse was issued three Instructions, one Recommendation, and one Commendation.

INSTRUCTION 1—The Diocese will formalize and implement an outreach program and protocols to promote healing and reconciliation with all victims/survivors and their families.

INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese will develop, implement, and publicize standards of conduct and a safe environment program.

INSTRUCTION 3—The Diocese will devise and implement specific policies and procedures for conducting criminal record checks for all clergy, employees, teachers, and volunteers. In addition, the Diocese will implement a criminal record check for all candidates for ordination.

RECOMMENDATION—The diocesan review board will come to agreement concerning the selection of its chairperson for the diocesan review board and will develop a formal policy to document its internal rules and procedures to carry out its required responsibilities.

COMMENDATION—For the Diocese’s forethought regarding its formalized sexual abuse policies, both historically and presently.

As of December 1, 2003, All Instructions and the Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of La Crosse is compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.

The compliance audit measured activity that has occurred since the adoption of the Charter in June 2002 with the exception of certain mandated actions found in Articles 5 and 14. Actions taken by the diocese/eparchy prior to June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons are not included in this summary report.


Office of Child and Youth Protection
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-5413 | FAX: (202) 541-5410
Email: ocyp@usccb.org
January 09, 2004 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops