Editorial: Comfort and Help for Abuse Victims

Sheboygan Press
January 2, 2012|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

The bold move by a group of Catholic priests including two from Sheboygan to work with and help victims of clergy sexual abuse gives all victims hope that they can receive justice.

The Rev. James Connell, pastor of Sheboygan's Holy Name and St. Clement parishes, and the Rev. Richard Cerpich, who serves St. Peter Claver parish, recognized that the Catholic Church needed to do more to reach out to abuse victims.

Last week, they and abuse victims, including Vicky Schneider of Sheboygan, took out full-page ads to remind victims that the deadline for filing claims against the church is less than a month away.

But the mission is much greater continuing dialogue between members of the clergy and abuse victims.

Connell, an outspoken critic of the way the church has handled abuse claims, said, "the truth needs to be known, so there can be justice based on the whole truth."

The truth about abusive priests is something Peter Isley of Milwaukee has been seeking for years. He is an abuse victim himself and is Midwest director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Like Connell he wants to see justice for the victims and ensure that their rights are protected as the archdiocese goes through bankruptcy.

Isley and Connell have not always had such a close working relationship. A little more than two years ago, Isley wanted Connell removed from an archdiocesan board reviewing sexual abuse cases involving clergy members, contending that Connell failed to warn the public about an abusive priest after documenting the allegations against him.

But Connell's commitment to justice and compassion for the victims of clergy abuse has been unwavering and he and Isley are on the same wavelength.

It is important for victims of abuse by clergy members to see the kind of commitment Connell and Cerpich are making to them. For too long, it seems, the church has been standing in the way of justice for the victims.

Maintaining a dialogue between the church and victims is essential for the healing process.

The effort by clergy members like Connell and Cerpich lets victims know that they are not alone and that the church is willing to listen and help them.

The bankruptcy involving the archdiocese has a ways to go before a judge decides how much money will be available in victims' compensation. But the fact that clergy members are standing with the victims is something that cannot be valued in monetary terms.


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