Bishop Accountability

Accused Diocesan Priests: 8 (of whom 2 found guilty)
Total Priests: 517 (including diocesan priests, religious men, and externs)
Alleged Victims: At least 11
Cost: $814,937 (of which $542,000 in settlements, $72,937 in legal costs and attorney fees, and $200,000 for the medical treatment of two priests)

See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Bishop Raphael Fliss. The June 2002 database examined the records of bishops and identified those who had allowed accused priests to continue working or had otherwise protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The database is relevant to the bishops' "Nature and Scope" study because the bishops who prepared the surveys for the study are in many cases responsible for the "scope" of the problem.

A letter from the bishop about the abuse study

February 5, 2004

To the People of God in the Diocese of Superior:

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the American Bishops in June 2002 called for an annual public report on the progress being made in the implementation of the standards of the charter. As we all know by now, our diocesan audit conducted by the respected Gavin Group of Boston has shown that the Diocese of Superior is in compliance with the requirements of the charter. While we are pleased with the knowledge that we are on the right track, we know we have much more yet to do.

Also included in the charter was the requirement that all dioceses and eparchies take part in a descriptive study of the nature and extent of the problem of sexual abuse by any clergy within the Catholic Church in the United States. In order to address this project, the bishops commissioned the John Jay College of Law in New York to conduct a national study to determine the size of this problem. This report covering the years from 1950 through 2002 will be released in the very near future.

In line with my intention to keep the members of the diocese informed about our cooperation with the charter, I use this letter to provide you with what exactly the John Jay Study reveals concerning the Diocese of Superior. During the 52 years that were studied, 517 priests served here in northern Wisconsin. This number included diocesan priests, religious men and others incardinated in other dioceses. Between 1950 and 2002, eight diocesan priests were accused of child abuse. Two of them were found to be guilty of the allegation against them and are no longer functioning as priests. The remaining six are either deceased or retired from priestly ministry.

Needless to say, these facts are very disappointing for everyone; in truth, even a single allegation of sexual misconduct is certainly unacceptable. For this reason, I continue to be pleased that we have had in place a morals and ethics policy that has dealt with sexual misconduct since July 1, 1989. It was subsequently revised in 1993 and again in October 1999. These policies not only remain in compliance with state and federal law, but have been shared with each and every employee of the diocese and its parishes. Because I have promised to protect our young people, I am determined to keep all of our church institutions and settings safe and protected places where the young can congregate. Furthermore, please know that there are no priests in active ministry in our church area who have been accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

The cost of clergy sexual misconduct to the church in northern Wisconsin these five decades has been significant. The diocese made financial settlements to victims of sexual abuse for $60,000 while insurance paid $482,000. Legal costs and attorney fees paid by the diocese amounted to $15,707 while insurance carriers paid $57,230.

It should be noted that all of the financial settlements to victims are attributed to one priest who sexually abused four different children between 1981 and 1983. Since February of 1983, the diocese has not been required to make any additional settlements. However, the diocese also expended a total of $200,000 for the medical treatment of two priests for psychosocial problems prior to any known incidents of sexual misconduct by these priests.

As bishop, I am so very sorry for this scandal and the hurt that has been inflicted by those who tarnished their sacred office and trust for sexual gratification. Be assured of my sincere promise to protect our young and my pledge to heal the wounds of the past.

Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Raphael M. Fliss
Bishop of Superior

Wisconsin Roman Catholic Church Investigation: Dioceses release sexual-abuse data

By Juliet Williams
Associated Press, carried in St. Paul Pioneer Press
February 26, 2004

MILWAUKEE — More than 100 Catholic clergy members in Wisconsin have had proven claims they sexually abused children since 1950, according to figures released by the state's five dioceses.

The reports from dioceses in Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee and Superior show at least 112 priests or clergy members have had substanti-ated allegations of child abuse against them. The dioceses said they have identified at least 323 claims of abuse, including at some of the state's religious orders.

The dioceses released the numbers before a comprehensive report due Friday that will detail such allegations nationwide from 1950 to 2002.

The study, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, will tally the number of victims and perpetrators in dioceses nationwide.

In Wisconsin, however, not all dioceses included figures for religious orders that serve independently within their areas, so the numbers are incomplete. The religious orders will be reported separately in the national study.

The national study will not break down the results by diocese, and the dioceses were not required to make their reports public, but did so in an effort to be transparent.

"The most deplorable part of this entire report is the damage done to the innocent lives victimized by this abuse," wrote Superior Bishop Raphael M. Fliss in a letter published in the Catholic Herald.

The reports showed:

• The state's largest diocese, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, reported 131 victims of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy by 45 diocesan priests between 1950-2002.

• In Green Bay, the diocese reported 59 allegations of sexual abuse by 35 diocesan priests during the period.

• Madison diocese spokes- man Bill Brophy said there were 19 victims of sexual abuse by four diocesan priests from 1950-2002.

• La Crosse had 55 allegations involving 10 clergy members. La Crosse's numbers include religious order clergy.

• The Diocese of Superior said it knew of two abuser priests and five victims during the 52-year span. It also included religious order clergy.

• St. Norbert Abbey, a religious order, has revealed independently that 16 of 267 priests who served there had been accused of sexual misconduct with children during that establishment's 111 years. A report said there were 54 allegations, nearly half of them against two priests.

Each diocese used its own standards to decide which figures to report.

Peter Isely, a Milwaukee spokesman for the victims group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the numbers don't reflect the true scope of the problem, because none of the church books were analyzed by outsiders.

"Why do they keep hiding this, in saying this is the number, when it's not the full number? If they're concerned about safety and not public relations, why would they do that?" Isely said Tuesday.

He also criticized the dioceses for failing to name all accused clergy and say which parishes they served.

"If the concern is public safety, you'd want to know the names and where have they been?" he said. "That's what people want to know: Has a sex offender been in my parish or my church?"

The national study was authorized by bishops in an effort to restore trust in their leadership following waves of revelations about abusive priests. The report could produce a much higher number of victims and abusers in the Catholic Church than has ever before been reported.

A draft of the survey viewed by CNN said 4,450 of the 110,000 U.S. clergy who served since 1950— about 4 percent — were accused of molesting minors, although not all the claims are likely to be deemed credible. The draft report also said there were 11,000 abuse claims filed in that time.

As well as the number of abusers and victims, the dioceses were required to report the amount of money they have paid to settle allegations of abuse.

The Wisconsin reports also showed:

• Green Bay paid out about $1.35 million, mostly through insurance, including more than $1 million for three cases involving one priest in the 1980s who has served prison time.

• La Crosse Diocese had not made any settlement payments, but it has spent about $15,000 on counseling.

• Madison paid out $1.6 million in settlements to its 19 abuse victims, spokesman Bill Brophy said.

• As of January 2003, Milwaukee paid $4 million in settlements with 29 victims, and said it spent another $2.3 million in related costs, including counseling. Insurance paid about $3 million. The figure does not include $450,000 the archdiocese paid to a man who claimed he was abused by former Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

• Superior paid out $542,000 in settlements, $482,000 of it by insurance, and spent more than $70,000 in legal fees. It also revealed it had spent about $200,000 for psychological treatment of two priests before it knew they were abusers.

Isely said the accounting of abuse should remind church leaders of their responsibility to negotiate fairly with sex-abuse victims.

"Hopefully, this study is going to press upon the bishops in Wisconsin that they've got to bring resolution to the victims in the state," Isely said.



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