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Archbishop Listecki: Milwaukee, not Rome at fault in Murphy abuse scandal

Catholic World News - March 31, 2010

Apologizing to victims of clerical abuse, Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee said in his March 30 Chrism Mass homily that Milwaukee bishops-- implicitly Archbishop William Cousins (1958-77) and Archbishop Rembert Weakland (1977-2002)-- were at fault in the handling of Father Lawrence Murphy’s abuse of deaf children.

“As a bishop, a priest, and as a man of faith, I apologize to anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse,” Archbishop Listecki said. “This crime, this sin, this horror, should never occur, especially by a priest. Those who committed these crimes and those, including some bishops, who didn’t do everything in their power to stop it, go against everything the Church and the priesthood represent. For those actions, I offer my sincere apology.”

He continued:

This past week our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has come under criticism for the way he has handled past cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors, including a case here involving Lawrence Murphy. The allegations against him, as well as the facts supporting him, are widely available.

The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm that his actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership.

Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in the 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Because of those who have come forward -- those who have been harmed in a most egregious way; those who have been relentless in their criticism of the Church; those who have pushed and prodded – some say even forced -- the Church to change; those brave victims-survivors who have had the courage to come forward and publicly tell their story even after decades of feeling ignored -- because of their persistence and perseverance, we know the Church HAS changed.

We owe these victims/survivors our deep gratitude and we acknowledge our own actions have not always expressed that gratitude adequately.

“Even though some do not want to hear it or accept it as truth, mistakes were made by law enforcement, medical professionals-- even reporters who helped bring initial stories to light and grappled with how to deal with perpetrators,” Archbishop Listecki added. “We have ALL learned so much.”

“We cannot deny the past, but because of all of it, during these past years we have become a more prudent Church. We have taken significant steps to purge this abuse from our Church and even from the larger society. We hope and pray our actions have become a model for what TO do after decades of what NOT to do.”

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bernadette - Apr. 03, 2010 1:01 PM ET USA

    We are finally getting to the root cause! Homosexuality in the priesthood (bishops included). Dig a bit deeper and we get to the rise of the "Sexual Revolution." No objective morality, confusion about one's sexuality. The disorder became respectable. Now we must get rid of God, belief in right and wrong, good and evil, punishment for sins, accountability, the Catholic Church, Christianity. Yes, the document no homosexuals in the priesthood ignored. Dig deeper. Bishops? Entrenched club?

  • Posted by: filioque - Mar. 31, 2010 10:03 PM ET USA

    The order barring homosexuals from ordination has been pushed down the memory hole by the US bishops, just like the fact that 80% of the sexual abuse cases were homosexual attacks on adolescent boys, not pedophilia. Remember that when the US delegation returned from Rome in 2002, Bishop Wilton Gregory, then president of the USCCB, said that it was a constant challenge to protect the presbyterate from homosexuals. He said it once, and the topic was never raised again.

  • Posted by: raymondfrice9926 - Mar. 31, 2010 8:15 PM ET USA

    This is a wonderful and powerful apology. The same type should come from the pope!!

  • Posted by: Convert96 - Mar. 31, 2010 11:14 AM ET USA

    Good point, New Sister-Today. Hopefully the Holy Father's instruction was stressed in the visitation to the seminaries. I would imagine that some bishops don't agree with it and so there is little comment on it. It does effectively address the problem.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Mar. 31, 2010 7:25 AM ET USA

    In their defense of the Holy Father, bishops are failing to mention the most decisive measure the Pope took to eradicate abuse, at the very beginning of his pontificate: barring homosexual men from entering Catholic seminaries. This step, more than any, demonstrates the Holy Father's unflappable courage to face the problem and strike at its root – why do fellow bishops not highlight and commend him for it? Call a spade: the gay agenda (w/ Weakland) is the real source of this calumny.

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