Survivors condemn Archbishop Listecki’s retaliation against priest whistleblower

Nate's Mission [Milwaukee WI]

March 24, 2023

By Peter Isely

Clergy abuse survivors and advocates to hold press conference in support of Father James Connell

WHERE: Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N Jackson St, Milwaukee, WI

WHEN: Friday, March 24th, 11:00am

WHO: Clergy abuse survivors and advocates

WHAT: A press conference with clergy abuse survivors and advocates holding signs in support of Father James Connell

WHY: On March 22nd, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, in an unprecedented act of retaliation, “removed the canonical faculties of Father James Connell to validly celebrate the Sacrament of Confession and to offer absolution,” as punishment for his relentless advocacy on behalf of survivors of rape and sexual violence at the hands of Catholic clergy.

Since 2010, when Father Connell, a canon lawyer, pastor, and former vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, co-founded the Survivors and Clergy Leadership Alliance, he has met and prayed with clergy abuse survivors, repeatedly called for transparency from the archdiocese, and advocated for holding bishops accountable for covering up child sex crimes.

In 2018, Connell began public advocacy for legislation that would remove loopholes that allow clergy members to avoid reporting child sexual abuse to law enforcement. Such legislation would remove exemptions when clergy are notified of sexual abuse in the course of their professional duties. Wisconsin is among several states that have introduced a Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act. Under state law, over 30 other professions including healthcare workers, therapists, and school employees are required to report child sexual abuse. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm offered his support for the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act when it was introduced in 2019.

Father Connell has been an outspoken critic of Archbishop Listecki’s refusal to cooperate with Attorney General Josh Kaul’s ongoing statewide clergy abuse investigation. This punitive action on the part of Archbishop Listecki sends a chilling message to any other priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who might dare to criticize his and his predecessors’ concealment of rape and sexual assault of children by Catholic clergy.

“Father Connell is one of the only priests I have known who has given his unconditional public support and friendship to victims of clergy abuse. His courage in the face of persecution from Archbishop Listecki is a testament to his deep faith and commitment to the spirit of the gospels and his lifelong ministry as a priest.” said Peter Isely, Program Director of Nate’s Mission.