|Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Request Sklba's Records
By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
September 16, 2010
Victims of clergy sexual abuse called on Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba on Thursday to turn over to authorities any records he has involving pedophile priests before he retires as early as this year.
Victims accuse Sklba, who submitted a mandatory letter of retirement after turning 75 on Sept. 11, of working closely with then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland to conceal the sexual abuse histories of at least 10 pedophile priests who went on to molest other children in Wisconsin and across the country.
It came as yet another lawsuit against the archdiocese for its handling of sexual abuse cases was filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Thursday - this one involving the now-defrocked Franklyn Becker, who was accused of molesting 10 teenage boys beginning in the 1960s.
"Archbishop Weakland has testified under oath that Bishop Sklba was his go-to guy for all sex abuse cases," said John Pilmaier, co-director of the Midwest chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which issued a public appeal to Sklba on Thursday.
"We'd like him to explain how it is he became so involved. Was he ordered by Weakland or did he come up with this on his own?" Pilmaier said. "This is a chance for Bishop Sklba, in the twilight of his life, to come clean."
Sklba was out of town and unavailable for comment Thursday. Bishops are required by church law to submit their letters seeking retirement when they turn 75. But the decision is made by the pope, and bishops can remain in their posts for years.
The archdiocese issued a statement Thursday saying Becker's offenses had been well-documented; that he appears as "laicized" on the archdiocese's list of abusive priests; and that there are no priests with credible allegations of abuse against them now working in the archdiocese.
The latest lawsuit is the 14th case involving 18 victims now pending against the archdiocese, including one in U.S. District Court that names the Vatican as a defendant. The new lawsuit specifically mentions Weakland but not Sklba, who was named auxiliary bishop in 1979.
The lawsuit alleges that Becker, now 73, sexually assaulted the plaintiff, identified as John Doe 17, in 1979 at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Milwaukee when he was 7 or 8 years old. It says the archdiocese defrauded the victim by not alerting his parents and other parishioners to Becker's sexual history. Becker did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
According to a letter released as part of an earlier lawsuit, Weakland knew of Becker's homosexual orientation and attraction to teenage boys as early as 1980. He testified in a 2008 deposition that Sklba would have been involved in all of the sexual abuse cases he handled.
Victims accuse Sklba of playing a role in numerous cases, including Becker's and that of Father Lawrence Murphy, who was accused of molesting as many as 200 boys at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis.
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