Group Warns about Accused Retired Priest
Fliers Distributed near Man's Home on Northwest Side
By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 3, 2003
Saying that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is not doing enough to alert the public to priests with histories of sexual abuse, a victims advocacy group distributed warning leaflets Wednesday in a northwest-side neighborhood where a retired priest lives.
"We can't let one more child be abused like this again, and that's why something has to be done," said Michael Sneesby, 46. He stood across the street and a few houses away from the house of the priest who he says abused him about nine times more than 30 years ago at St. Augustine Parish.
Peter Isely -- Milwaukee coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which is distributing the leaflets -- said that an archdiocesan official told Sneesby on Monday that the archdiocese's independent adjudicator and lay review board had upheld Sneesby's allegation against the priest.
Isely said a number of priests who had been removed from active ministry over the years because of sexual abuse allegations were living in private residences without the public knowing their background. He criticized Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan's decision not to release the names of such priests.
The priest, Father Frederick Bistricky, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that a decision had been made in his case, but he said he did not think it was definitive.
Bistricky said that someone from the archdiocese had told him that a "determination was made that it seemed like -- I can't even remember the words -- that there was a preponderance of evidence that the allegation is credible."
Bistricky said he would continue to challenge the allegation.
The SNAP flier carried the headline, "Priest Sex Offender Living Unsupervised in Neighborhood." It urged residents to call Dolan and seek a meeting. The flier also named Bistricky, without giving his address.
But people in the 5100 block of N. 64th St. who were interviewed knew where he lived. Two who did not want to be identified said Bistricky had lived there several years, and that they were not bothered by the flier's information. One person, who said Bistricky's mother used to live in the house where the priest now lives, said he wanted to see the evidence.
Curtis Dowl, 53, a block resident with four children, said he wasn't overly concerned but had mixed emotions. On the one hand, he said, God forgives and nothing is impossible. But, he said, "It's nice to know, so you can keep an eye on it."
Bistricky has been restricted from active ministry, including helping parishes at weekend Masses, since Sneesby's allegation about nine months ago.
More steps in church process
There are more steps in the church's judgment process, which is not based on whether a priest violated secular criminal laws. The Milwaukee County district attorney's office previously determined that allegations against Bistricky could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired, according to an archdiocesan release.
Bistricky said he was unclear what that process would be under the new policy, and under norms adopted by U.S. bishops and the Vatican.
On Wednesday, the archdiocesan officials who normally handle news media inquiries about sexual abuse matters were either on vacation or on pilgrimage with Dolan in Rome. Jean Mullooly, associate communication director, said that the adjudicator -- former Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Fiorenza -- and the lay review board had made recommendations to Dolan in Bistricky's case.
The five-person review board includes former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow and Donald Schuenke, retired chairman of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.
Dolan, in keeping with the church's new policies, directed that the case be forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome for judgment. Such actions are taken if an archbishop finds "semblance of truth" in a case, Mullooly said.
The Vatican congregation, or department, could make one of four decisions, she said. It could move to laicize, or remove Bistricky from the priesthood; ask the pope to laicize Bistricky; conduct a tribunal, or hearing, in Rome; or direct the archdiocese to hold a tribunal.
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