Us, " Those Who Know Must Speak" without Secrecy and Remorse

By Giacomo Galeazzi
Vatican Insider
January 14, 2012

Milwaukee's Cathedral

In the Archdiocese of Milawaukee until February 1st to denounce pedophile priests

This is a race against time. For the first time since the scandal of pedophile priests exploded in the world, an agreement was signed between priests who want anti-abuse purification of the Church and victims of "disloyal" clergy. This happened in Milwaukee in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, one of the main theaters of the pedophilia scandal. Victims of sexual abuse have signed an appeal so that other victims of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee come forward. Together to prevent it from happening again and to bring the culprits to court.

Two weeks to denounce pedophile priests and uncover those responsibilities. An alliance of priests, victims of abuse by clergy and supporters of the «purification» of the Church. Together they have launched an appeal by signing a poster that appeared in the newspaper, «Milwaukee Journal Sentinel», which encourages victims to come forward before the February 1st deadline for submitting complaints of abuseagainst the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in view of an imminent bankruptcy. The announcement calls otherpriests and religious of the diocese "to unite and press for a full public confession" by the archdiocese, including the uncensored publication of all documents relating to abuses by the archdiocese and by religious orders that serve in its territory. Furthermore, the signatories ask the archdiocese to "provide a detailed and comprehensive list of all clergy and employees who have harmed children and minors", reports the National Catholic Reporter. Peter Isely, Director of Snap (Survivors Network of Those abused by priests), i.e. the network of victims of abuse by clergy has issued a statement which describes the initiative as a breakthrough in the fight against pedophilia in the clergy.

Isely points out: "In the crisis related to the sex scandals of the Catholic Church, it is the first time that a group of victims of sexual abuse by clergy signed a joint statement aimed to advocate transparency and public accountability on the part of representatives of the Church". The group was originally formed by Isely and father James Connell, vice-chancellor of the archdiocese, specifies the NCR. Over the past two years, lsely and father Connell worked together on a series of initiatives aimed at supporting victims of sexual abuse and to demand greater responsibility from Church leaders. The first year they organized a series of torch marches for victims of abuse and for those who wanted to join in, especially in parishes where it was known that the priests had abused minors. During a telephone interview, Father Connell told NCR that last year he and Isely gave birth to a rally on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, during which Isely asked if he and some abuse victims could be received by the prelates involved, for a confrontation. These discussions, points out Father Connell, led to the signing of the anti-abuse "poster" that appeared in the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel".

Also in this perspective, the archdiocese distributed a series of flyers to all parishes that inform victims of the February 1st deadline. Julie Wolf, communications director of the archdiocese, pointed out that the announcement represents a much clearer position than what has been done so far by some clergymen. "It is important to note how the prelates of the entire diocese have sought to reach out to the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, in every way, in every ministry and every parish. The priests of the archdiocese have been doing this for years". He then added that Archbishop Jerome Listecki continues to encourage victimsto come forward before the deadline, adding that the archdiocese is about to conduct a national advertising campaign to encourage victims who are currently outside the archdiocese to come forward.

With regards to the list of priests, Julie Wolf assures that the archdiocese is reacting and is continuously updating its website (open since 2004) and continues to add information on those cases which show "motivated charges" of sexual abuse. In addition to Connell and Isely, the appeal was signed by John Pilmaier, director of the Wisconsin Snap, he himself a victim; Mike Sneesby, director of SNAP Milwaukee, also a victim; Marilynn Pilmaier, John's mother; Vicky A. Schneider and Karen Kontera, victims; Father Richard Cerpich; Father Gregory Greiten; and father Howard Haase. The appeal, NCR states, contains information about community resources for victims of sexual abuse and provides contacts with the archdiocese. In their statements the priests write: "We publicly express our unconditional help to all victims/survivors. We consider ourselves and our institution fully responsible for any act, or failure, that may have contributed these crimes taking place, to perpetrators remaining unpunished, and that other children were molested. We are truly sorry that this happened to you". The healing of the Church and the community-they continue-will require "that institutions pursue the crimes that took place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The victims/survivors and their families have told us how important it is that the truth about what happened in their churches be made known.

It is important also for each one of us. "The priests recognize that they have arrived late, but "making this statement now is better than remaining silent". Isely said that the alliance between priests and victims is unusual, "but the alliance is real". The two groups most affected by the scandal are in fact the victims and the priests, he said, and the priesthood has been deeply wounded. "The ability of priests to preach the gospel has been severely compromised, not only by pedophile priests and by covering up the facts, but the way in which the priesthood itself throughout the world allows that clergy guilty of abusing children, to remain in office", he said. Even in the U.S., where there is zero-tolerance, Isely said that a priest accused of committing sexual abuse "is removed from public ministry, but not from the clergy. "In other words, said Isely, a therapist with a license "You do not lose your license. Only employment in civil society allows you to operate that way".

He also said that he hopes that the alliance between priests and victims in Milwaukee continues to grow. "This dialogue must take place", he said. Some of the victims, at first reluctant to be in the same room with priests, have come to realize that the problem is not the priests, "but only some of them". In his case, said Isely, the dialogue has been both challenging and healing . It is much easier for victims to remain locked when trying to fight this battle; it's easy to be in a position where you do not want to have anything to do with priests again". Ultimately, they are not the problem", he concluded.


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