Dolan's 5th Year Sees Record Breaking Drop in Church Attendance
Stunning 600 Percent Plummet in Weekly Attendance from Previous Year

SNAP-Great Plains
June 24, 2008

According to figures buried in a story today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by religion reporter Tom Heinen, over the past year the archdiocese of Milwaukee has experienced a record breaking six-fold decrease in weekly church attendance from the previous year -- the greatest reported yearly loss in archdiocesan history.

To see the magnitude of this extraordinary and sudden loss, while 3,957 Catholics stopped attending services last year, a staggering 26,398 members have left this year


According to figures published in the April 27, 2007 edition of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, the official newspaper of the archdiocese, the drop in attendance between 2006 and 2007 reflected, the paper claims, similar percentage declines from dioceses around the country.

Not anymore.

According to today’s story, five years ago, average weekly church attendance for the nearly 650,000 “registered” Catholics of the archdiocese was 212,300. According to the Catholic Herald, in October of 2005 weekly attendance was 195,455. In October or 2006 it was 191,498.

Now it’s 165,100.

Three years ago, Archbishop Dolan boldly announced that the conclusion of settlements in California the sex abuse crisis was over and had rescued the archdiocese from bankruptcy because Wisconsin victims will never be able to see their day in court. He was assuming, of course, that Wisconsin law, which grants civil immunity to sex offender clergy and their bishops—the only laws of their kind in the country—would never change.

Since then, however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has begun to remove Wisconsin’s unique shield for religious leaders who covered up child sex crimes, ruling that Dolan and his fellow bishops could be sued for fraud. For the first time in fifteen years, cases against bishops are being moving through our courts Dolan also failed to stop the court ordered release in February of never before seen documents from the archdiocese concerning Frankly Becker detailing a horrific four decades of sex abuse cover up. His much touted sale of the Cousins center fell through. More archdiocesan employees have been laid off. Audits are now underway after the disclosure that well over a dozen parishes have been targets of financial embezzlement or fraud. And Dolan’s lobbying efforts in Madison this spring to defeat the Child Victims Act failed to kill the bill that would kick away the final barrier for child sex abuse victims to seek justice in Wisconsin courts.

Because Catholics have little voice in the governance of their church, they display their disgust and outrage over the continual and catastrophic moral failure of their bishops to protect children and face up to their complicity in child rape by employing the only measures left to them: they vote with their wallet by withholding contributions they don't want to see used for covering up sex crimes and they vote with their feet, like the 26,398 Catholics have done over the past several months.

These thousands of angry Catholics gave Dolan five years to show some decisive leadership. They gave the archbishop their patience, their tolerance, and the benefit of the doubt. To leave now in record numbers is a serious warning sign that he has failed them and is leading the archdiocese in the wrong direction. .

Maybe, as the paper seems to endlessly enjoy speculating, our archbishop will, indeed, become the next Roman Catholic Cardinal of New York. Sadly, he will have done so leaving the problems in the Milwaukee archdiocese much worse than when he got here.

At least that’s what over 26,000 Roman Catholics from the Milwaukee Archdiocese concluded this past year.

-Link to today’s Journal Sentinel Story:

-Link to April 2007 Milwaukee Catholic Herald Story:

Contacts: Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259, John Pilmaier, SNAP Milwaukee, 414.336.8575.


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