Church Wants Vosen Book Destroyed

Baraboo News Republic
December 10, 2008

Members of the Catholic faithful who have copies of the book by suspended local priest Father Gerald Vosen should destroy or return them because a chapter describes proceedings of his church tribunal on child sexual assault allegations that should be kept secret, church officials announced last week.

Bishop of the Madison Diocese Robert C. Morlino issued a letter Dec. 1 stating Vosen's book, "Pick a Number: Stories of Faith," details actions by church authorities after abuse allegations were made against Vosen in 2003. The church proceedings are under "Pontifical secret" for the protection of Vosen and others involved in them, Morlino wrote.

"Baptized Catholics or those who have made a profession of faith who purchase Fr. Vosen's book are at risk of participating in this breach of the Pontifical Secret," Morlino writes in his statement.

In Chapter 51, "The Day the Music Died," Vosen describes his thoughts and feelings during church officials' examination of abuse allegations he says are unfounded and says the officials were uncritical in their acceptance of alleged victims' testimony.

A church body ruled against him and Vosen is now awaiting a response after appealing his case to the Catholic hierarchy in Rome.

Catholics who have purchased the book before the bishop's announcement or without knowing the book breached church secrecy are not liable for any wrongdoing under church law, Morlino wrote. However, "Once informed, continued support of Fr. Vosen's book may result in a canonical crime being declared on the individual involved," the statement continues.

Morlino's statement has been published in the diocese newspaper and sent to all parishes, priests and leading church members in the diocese, diocese spokesman Brent King said. He played down the seriousness of the term "canonical crime."

"It's more of an announcement so everybody knows how serious it is because secrecy was broken," King said. "It's basically a warning, you don't want to be part of that so remove yourself from any situation,

"It's no threat to anybody, it's making everybody aware," he said.

The bishop's letter also reiterates that Vosen is suspended from priestly duties and cannot celebrate the Mass in public or privately.

Reached at his rural Merrimac home, Vosen said he was surprised Morlino took action against his publishing the book.

"I'm surprised to the degree he reacted," Vosen said.

He said Morlino threatened to take him off the diocese payroll if he did not end distribution of the book through book stores and his promotion of it.

"We did remove the book from the books stores," he said. "We are not planning any more promotions or book signings."

Vosen said he has been gratified that while the book was being distributed many people have responded to him about the spiritual lessons that make up the bulk of its chapters.

Father Larry Bakke, pastor of Baraboo's St. Joseph Catholic Church, said Tuesday he does not have any comment on the issue.

Vosen has never been charged with a crime by legal authorities and no alleged victim has sued him for damages. He sued one alleged victim for defamation, a jury sitting in Janesville did not find the man liable.

Church officials have never released details of what Vosen is specifically alleged to have done or which of several alleged incidents of abuse they consider legitimate.

"Because of the nature of the allegations against Fr. Vosen, and the fact that this matter still awaits final judgment by Church courts, no other information is available at this time," read the official statement issued by Morlino.


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