Retiring Bishop Speaks on History of Sexual Abuse in Church

By Stephanie Jones
Journal Times
October 21, 2010

Retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland, left, and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba , center ,congratulate Bishop Timothy Dolan, right, after a news conference announcing Dolan as the new Archbishop of Milwaukee at the Cousin Center Tuesday, June 25, 2002, in St. Francis. The Milwaukee auxiliary bishop known for ecumenical relations and later accused of covering up abuse by clergy has retired. Richard Sklba turned 75 on Sept. 11. All Catholic bishops are required to retire when they reach 75.

MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, who grew up in eastern Mount Pleasant, is now retiring at age 75.

In his career as a Roman Catholic priest and bishop, he has done archeological digs in Israel and studied modern Hebrew in Jerusalem. A peacemaker award through St. Lucy's School is also named his honor.

But one of the ways he is remembered in recent years is allegations of connections to sexual abuse coverups in the church.

In the 31 years Sklba has been a bishop, starting in 1979, there were occasions he recalls hearing about sexual abuse and he referred them to authorities, he said in an interview with The Journal Times.

But back in the 80s sexual abuse was looked at a lot differently than it is today, Sklba said.

"The whole issue has changed in our society," Sklba said. "Psychologists said you can reassign this person without any fear of reoffense," he said. None did, he said.

When they did reassign priests it was always with the parish trustees or the parish council president knowing the background, he said.

"So that is no secret. That is not hidden," Sklba said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has also reported, in one case, Sklba signed off on a "hush money" payment to Paul Marcoux, "who had accused (then-Archbishop Rembert) Weakland of sexual abuse."

Sklba said that is not true.

"The lawsuit that I signed off on was in fact against the whole archdiocese for impeding (Marcoux's) professional career," Sklba said. "That was his allegation ... It was a complicated situation but there was no sexual abuse."

In recollection, Sklba said he remembers Marcoux's career was in drama.

But the allegations are not how his long-time friend Sue Sisak, 75, remembers him.

Long before Sklba was even a priest, Sisak remembers Sklba as a boy who was always there for her in school. She met him in fourth grade at Hanche School, a former country school east of Highway 32 in Mount Pleasant.

"He was my protector right away," Sisak said. "He watched out for me."

Later Sklba went on to St. Catherine's High School for two years then Saint Francis Minor Seminary and eventually Rome. Sisak lost touch with him for some of those years.

Then when she heard he was being installed as a bishop she wrote him a letter to tell him how proud she was and he invited her to his ordination.

"Ever since then we have been in touch," she said. "He is just a kind and gentle man ... He is the kind of man you can go to and tell him anything and he doesn't judge you."

She has heard about the allegations of abuse coverups. But that is not something they talk about, she said.

"Being a friend you just don't do that," Sisak said. "We don't judge."


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