Monday, March 1, 2004

March 2004

This is a placeholder post linking to the page with this month's entries in the pre-Blogger format.

Topics: Re: Priest Alliance Meeting, February 5, 2004. Church again asked to ID abusive priests. R.I.P. Randy Barker. Archbishop Weakland debuts personal Web site. Voice of the Faithful presents "A Dialogue With the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Priests' Alliance." Ayden Michael Woda. St. Terence ... and St. Berres. Priest put on leave is accused of abuse. Folks, it's time to move on. Bill to require clergy to report all abuse. Healing service a ‘resurrection’ for victim-survivor. Victims group walks away from talks with church. A tangle of sin, forgiveness. State Senate OKs bill to curb clergy sex abuse. Archdiocese releases numbers it provided to John Jay researchers. Local moviegoers give ‘Passion’ high marks. Church must reach out to black males, says speaker. No declared candidates, few voters in election. Made whole, made holy.

Monday, March 29, 2004


Re: Priest Alliance Meeting, February 5, 2004

Went to our parish council meeting tonight. I raised the issue of the previous week's meeting here of the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful. Specifically, at that meeting Fr. David Cooper, representing the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Priests Alliance, said the Alliance had as part of its mission to be a "voice for the voiceless" in the Church, and among the voiceless were the pro-choice. Those on our Parish Council who commented thought this obviously inappropriate and some wondered if perhaps he misspoke, meaning to say "pro-life." Our pastor elaborated that there are those who say that there is not enough said "from the pulpit" on abortion. At the Council's request, he said he would look into the matter and get back to me.

After the meeting, I looked a the Alliance's web site. The "Convening Board" link brought up a link to minutes of the Alliance's February 5, 2004 meeting. The Alliance has six committees, one of which deals with the "voiceless" among the faithful. In the minutes, its meeting is summarized,

2. Voiceless faithful group discerned nine areas that they may pursue. They are

Women's Ordination/voices of women, Gays/dignity, all minority voices, pro-choice voices, no space in uniformity for those who don't conform, divorced, diocesan priests, laity, and planning process leaves out voices of Catholics in situations [sic]

Recommendations: The alliance gathers faithful laity who need a voice.

Fr. Cooper did not misspeak. My pastor knows this. He was at the VOTF meeting and is deeply involved in MAPA. You might recall he was one of its organizers. His explanation might prove interesting.


Sunday, March 28, 2004


Lawyers (1989), by William L. Droel

The Spirituality of Work series

There are two primary obstacles when it comes to
seeing the connection between faith and the practice of law.

The first obstacle is the secular environment, the
conditions of the work itself. ...

The second obstacle comes from the secular
language in which the law is practiced.

--p. 10


Friday, March 26, 2004


Church again asked to ID abusive priests

Peter Isely, regional coordinator of SNAP [Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests], held a news conference on the issue. He suggested that if the bishops cannot or will not release the remaining names to the public, they release them to pastors, parish trustees, school principals, guidance counselors, and others responsible for the care of children. Mr. Isely put this in terms of trust, but surely he knows disclosure to as large a group as he proposes means someone is bound to leak the names to the press.

On the recent mediation breakdown, Isely says SNAP's attorney, Jim Smith, has asked for another mediation session and submitted a new proposal.

R.I.P. Randy Barker

Heard the news from another cousin on my mother's side that Randy had died of a heart attack this morning. He was the third child of my late uncle Jerome "Romie" Barker. Uncle Romie's oldest son Tom and I are about the same age and used to chum around together at family gatherings. Uncle Romie was the life of the party. He died young, in his 30's, and that was the death of the party, in a way.

Update: here's Randy's death notice. (He looks almost eerily like my brother Rick.)

Update: Randy will be missed. At the funeral home, I waited in line about 15 minutes to sign the condolence book, then about 90 minutes in line to see his immediate family. Along the way, the line passed the now usual family snapshots, plus some posters for Randy's bands, and then his brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had put a couple dozen miles on it.


Thursday, March 25, 2004


(The March 18, 2004 Catholic Herald is now on-line with its permanent links.)

Archbishop Weakland debuts personal Web site

A personal web site is not the obvious venue for a struggle with pride. Perhaps he forgot about it.

The site is hosted on the archdiocese’s server.

While, as I understand it, our Archdiocese will not provide this service for our parishes.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Congressman Pelosi writes again, offering a "Fighting Donkey" pin.

You can't buy it. Anywhere. It's available only from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee with your gift of $25 or more.

Not sold in any store! But will we soon see it on

Nadine Strossen also writes, enclosing an invitation

... to full-vested Membership in the
American Civil Liberties Union ...

Sorry, I'm sticking with my two-piece suits.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Voice of the Faithful presents "A Dialogue With the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Priests' Alliance"

A three-fer: Voice of the Faithful, the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Priests' Alliance, at our parish.

About 60 people attended, of whom about 58 looked to be AARP-qualified. What follows is pretty much taken directly from my notes.

After an opening prayer, there was a business meeting, lead by Nancy Moews. This VOTF chapter might drop its web site for lack of hits. Judging by the numbers provided, its webmaster and I might be the only one's viewing it. Our attention was directed to the tables at the back of the room on which were, among other things, petitions to our Pope and the American Bishops on accountability, meaning the resignation of bishops who knowingly transfered rather than removed priests who had sexually abused children.

We were read a letter from Archbishop Dolan in response to a letter from VOTF asking that he release the remaining names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse. Finally, there was a report by Peter Isely [local leader of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] for the subcommittees apparently called Legislative Voice and Survivors Voice.

Mr. Isely gave a mixed review the recent changes in state law. Clergy are now required to report abuse, but this excepted abuse they learn of through pastoral counseling. Isely feared this exception might swallow the rule. The statutes of limitations were lengthened for civil suits and criminal prosecutions, but only for incidents after this change in the law. The proposal for a one year "window" to sue on past claims on which the statute of limitations has run was defeated. Isely said Archbishop Dolan spent most of the Wednesday and Thursday before the vote on the telephone with legislators urging them to vote against this. He also said that after SNAP representative talked with Republican legislative leaders, they called our Archbishop.

(A one year "window" on claims combined with vicarious liability for sexual abuse by priests would almost surely bankrupt dioceses, so it's not surprising they lobby against them. Retroactive changes to statutes of limitations is generally believed would be held unconstitutional.)

Regarding the recent collapse of mediation, Isley said the Archdiocese presented a "take it or leave it" offer. The Archdiocese is making no offers on claims arising from acts by religious order priests, even if they were serving in parishes or other Archdiocesan organizations. There has been no agreement on payment for therapy for the abused. Our Archdiocese will not permit direct contact with priests, even when there cannot be litigation because of the statute of limitations. The average amount a victim would have received is one-fifth the amount of an average settlements before the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision which largely immunized the Church from liability for abuse by priests, and lower by half than the least to be recovered under any other group settlement offer in the country.

(I have no idea how our Archdiocese could come up with two or five times as much money for claims. It very likely is impossible. But the amounts offered are scandalously low. Further, our Archdiocese insisted on having its own mediation process developed, so it can now hardly say its only responsibility in these mediations is as one of the parties to the negotiations.)

The program began with an introduction by our pastor, Fr. Richard Aiken, of members of the "Organizing Board" of the Priests' Alliance, Fr. John Lukaszewicz, Fr. David Cooper of St. Matthias Church, and Fr. Steven Amann of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.

Fr. Cooper said the 1983 Code of Canon Law changed Priests Senates from consultative to advisory bodies. That is, the bishop now set the agenda for the Senate and its meetings. He also acknowledged the history of the Alliance as set for by Marni Geissler's letter to the Catholic Herald [see February 26, 2004 "'Well planned chats' lead to Priest Alliance].

The priests' September 18, 2003 meeting was conducted using "Open Space" software [see February 19, 2004 "About 70 gather for second meeting of Priests Alliance"]. He recalled there being about 100 priests in attendance. Under the "Open Space" procedure, they sat in a large circle and could walk to the center to post issues for discussion. They settle on eight or nine issues as most important. They then formed a Steering Committee of about 30 priests which then split into subcommittees on a Constitution and to plan the next meeting. At their February 5, 2004 meeting, the priests selected a Convening Board of nine.

(A 30 member Steering Committee is a lot of hands on the wheel and might make it hard not to be all over the road.)

Fr. Lukaszewicz discussed the Alliance's Mission Statement, which is on its new web site. He highlighted the last mission

To strive for the equality of women and men of all races and cultures.

His historical analysis noted first how recently women's suffrage was mandated in the U.S. and, second, that at the time the Church was organized the only organizational model was the Roman Empire.

(The egalitarian point of this history seemed more apparent to everyone else in the room than it does to me. Note this it the last mission of 12.)

Fr. Amann, who is also the Alliance webmaster, discussed the group's constitution. They got a copy of their Chicago counterpart's constition and bylaws and modified that. For example, Milwaukee added several goals to the Mission Statement and will operate a year under interim leadership before holding elections. Membership is limited to 1) diocesan priests and 2) religious order priests working in parishes. The actual constitution will be presented to the members next year and the election procedure decided then. The Alliance has committees on six subjects: 1) overworked priests; 2) the voiceless, such as women, gays, minorities, the pro-choice; 3) morale of priests; 4) accusations, that is, not every accusation against a priest is true; 5) vocations; and 6) ecclesiology, that is, priests' ideas vs. bishops' ideas of same.

(Our overworked priests will be working to be a voice for the voiceless pro-choice in the Church. You have to sacrifice an evening to find that out; I have not seen it on their web site or in the newspaper accounts.)

Fr. Cooper then discussed the October 2003 meeting of Alliance representatives with Archbishop Dolan, who "gave his blessing."

The Alliance members decided they had to pick a priority goal. Their main concern was that the the Planning Commission's plan would essentially be to "paint priests thinner." They wrote to the commission expressing their concern. That is the Alliance's only action so far.

He said the Alliance members are exploring ways to communicate independent of the Archdiocese, e.g., without using the Archdiocese's email system.

Fr. Amann here noted the Alliances web site, and said its chat room might serve as such a means of communication.

Fr. Cooper differentiated some of the other bodies involving priests. The Archdiocese is divided into 16 geographic districts. The priests from each elect a Dean, who is called "Most Reverend" rather than just "Reverend." These 16 deans plus three priests appointed by the Archbishop and some ex officio members make up the Priests Council. This was the Priests Senate before the 1983 Code of Canon Law. From the Council, the Archbishop appoints eight priests as Consultors. There are some actions, such as some major expenditures regarding Archdiocesan property, which require the Archbishop to get the approval of the Consultors.

Fr. Cooper mentioned that the Chicago priests association had become rather inactive, until aroused by the letter on celibacy by Milwaukee priests.

There will be an April meeting in New York of representative of priests alliances from around the country. Fr. Cooper's associate pastor, Fr. Joseph Aufdermauer, plans to attend.

An audience member asked who to contact at the Priests Council to discuss with the council the issue of releasing the remaining names of priests determined to have committed abuse. Fr. Cooper suggested contacting the Council's Moderator, Fr. Jeffrey Haines.

On another question, Fr. Cooper said that, on behalf of the Planning Commission, Bishop Sklba wrote back to the Alliance acknowledging the concern that not every priest considers himself capable of taking on more work, e.g., additional parishes. Fr. Cooper then went into an explanation of his view of ecclesiology. In response to the decline in the number of priests, parish staff presses for more delegation and more parishioner involvement. Fr. Cooper analogized a pastors to captains of a cruise ships. There is a limit to what can be delegated; at some point, you need more captains. Likewise, he indicated, we need more priests, and to fill that need women should also be ordained.

Fr. Cooper defended his earlier public apology for advocating ordaining women. Archbishop Dolan told him that if he did not recant, the Archbishop would have no choice but to ask for his resignation.

(In other words, Fr. Cooper's apology was just to keep his job, and he now continues to publicly advocate women's ordination. VOTF claims as a goal to "Support priests of Integrity." Fr. Cooper apparently is, to VOTF, such a priest. If pretending to hold views to keep his job while actually holding other views is integrity, I have to wonder what VOTF considers hypocrisy.)

An audience member said that it was the Roman Emperor Constantine who organized the Church along the lines of the Roman Empire. It was to this he attributed the fact that we did not choose Archbishop Dolan.

Fr. Michael Crosby was in the audience and suggested as a model Melchizidek as a priest chosen from among his people. In response, Fr. Cooper noted that Our Lady of Lourdes parish has indicated that if it is not assigned a priest, it will appoint its own spiritual leader.

An audience member, ordained in the early 1940s, resigned in the early 1970s, asked about resigned priests joining the Alliance. Fr. Cooper said that some priests associations became largely made up of resigned priests. He suggested instead that the Alliance not include them as members but work with groups like CORPUS.

From this point, the meeting consisted of audience comment.

Comment: we should think of priests as working for us, like when we hire a plumber.

Comment: if the people in Haiti can have a coup d'etat, why can't we.

(Haiti; that would be a change from the Roman Empire as a structural model.)

Comment: Call to Action presented a theologian from North [sic] Korea, who told of people lying down before Church entrances demanding the ordination of women.

Comment: the Alliance ought to arrange to meet with victims.

Comment: the only way to influence Church authorities is to withhold contributions.

(No reaction from my pastor, as we sat in a new wing of the parish building complex, which new wing is part of a recent project that still has to be paid for.)

Comment: three Archdiocesan cabinet positions will be eliminated, effective July 1, 2004. Central staff whose positions are to be eliminated have until this Thursday to apply for new positions.

Ayden Michael Woda

Our first grand-nephew, born at 4:16 a.m., to my niece Aimee and her husband Jason.


Sunday, March 21, 2004


Our parish is looking for new members for the parish council and committees for the upcoming terms. How does it describe the time commitment?

Parish Council--3 year commitment; meet on the 1st Monday of the month. Council
members are also assigned as liaisons to one of the committees and meet with that
particular committee on the 3rd Tuesday of the month.

Of course there's more to it than that. If all a committee did was meet, it would accomplish nothing.

If meetings are to be productive, they have to be planned. When I was on the Parish Council, a review of the minutes showed that the same problems were discussed over and over. We revived holding an Executive Committee meeting to plan the agenda. The Executive Committee was the Council officers and a rotating member of the Council. Of course, the effectiveness of that meeting depended on the officers giving it some thought in advance, as well.

If meetings are to be productive, any written materials to be considered should be received and read in advance. Should be; sometimes we'd be handed a pack of material at the meeting for every agenda item.

Once we were on the Council, then we were told we were expected to attend an overnight retreat, which we it was asserted we surely were told about, even though we surely were not.

While one had to volunteer, some members of the Council had to be the ones to attend various Archdiocesan meetings.

What was described as a few hours a month would be more accurately described as a part-time job. Once people realize this, those who also conclude little is being accomplished tend to drop out. More duties get piled on those who remain. A fellow Council member who then went on to serve on a parish committee summed up the experience, "They suck you dry."

This week's bulletin notes, under the heading "Let Your Voice Be Heard" that Voice of the Faithful will present "A Dialogue With the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Priests' Alliance" tomorrow night in the new Community Room at our parish. "All will welcome!" [sic]

Speaking of the Community Room, the bulletin had a insert announcing that we parishioners should expect to hear from our parish Debt Reduction Appeal Leadership Team. I admit I have mixed feelings, since the debt was for a building project which was largely a waste of money, but once the debt is incurred, there's no one to pay it but the parishioners.

St. Terence ... and St. Berres

In the course of moving to this site, I found a page with this information at my old site, and decided to post it here rather than maintain a separate page.

Saint Terence, Africanus, Pompeius, and Companions, Martyrs.

Nothing is known of the life of Terence except that he and 40
companions were martyred at Carthage, in Africa, under Decius in 250.
Their relics were later brought to Constantinople by the Emperor
Theodosius II (408-450).
The Feast of St. Terence and his companions is celebrated April 10.

--The Catholic Encyclopedia for School and Home, Vol. 10, p. 592

Saint Terence, Bishop of Iconium (1st Century)
[Tertius of Romans 16:22?].
June 21.

Blessed Terence, 16th Bishop of Metz (died 520).
October 28.

Saint Berres,
(with variations such as Brice or Britius)
was a 4th-5th Century Welsh hermit,
who according to Thomas Pennant was a disciple of St Martin the Hungarian.
There is a St. Berres Church in Llanferes, Denbighshire County, Wales U.K. Llanferes is on the A494 east of Ruthin, in an area called Loggerheads.

Also moved here in the housecleaning are a few prayers from the sources indicated.

Prayer of John Carroll, Bishop of Baltimore.

[May] these United States flourish in pure and undefiled religion, in morality, peace, union, liberty and the enjoyment of their excellent constitution, as long as respect, honor, and veneration shall gather around the name of Washington; that is, whilst there still shall be any surviving record of human events.

--Eulogy of George Washington, February 22, 1800

Prayer of Ebenezer Scrooge

God forgive me for the time I've wasted.

--A Christmas Carol (1984)

Prayer of Guy Crouchback

Show me what to do and help me to do it.

--Evelyn Waugh, The End of the Battle


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Priest put on leave is accused of abuse

Back on February 13th, our Archdiocese put Fr. Joseph Haas on leave from his parish while allegations of sexual abuse were being investigated. The only explanation the parish had received was from Fr. Haas, who said it was for medical reasons.

The secrecy rankled leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who had the victim speak at a news conference in Madison last week as legislators considered a clergy sexual abuse bill and then distributed fliers detailing the allegation last weekend at and in the neighborhood around St. Peter of Alcantra Church in Port Washington and the church in Milwaukee where Haas served at the time of the alleged abuse.

Our Archbishop then had a letter sent to the parishioners and it will also be inserted in this Sunday's bulletins.


Thursday, March 18, 2004


The March 11, 2004 Catholic Herald is now on-line with its permanent links.

Folks, it's time to move on

Not on-line is the "Editor's Notes" by Fr. Thomas Brundage on the recent controversy over the attempt to have retire Archbishop Rembert Weakland preside at Confirmation at St. John Vianney Church. [See below.] His opening sentence includes this.

... I cannot defend the $450,000 settlement associated with that relationship [between Mr. Paul Marcoux and Archbishop Weakland] ...

And therefore he is belatedly calling for the resignations of Bishop Sklba and Finance Director Wayne Schneider, who approved it? Actually, that doesn't come up.

Maybe he's unaware of it.

I first became aware of the uproar at that parish in the Feb. 19 News Notes in "The Wanderer."

The editor of the Catholic Herald gets his news about our Archdiocese from The Wanderer. Maybe I should subscribe to The Wanderer instead of the Catholic Herald and cut out the middleman.

Fr. Brundage reviews the basics of the story, then interrupts himself.

Before continuing, for ethical reasons, I need to state that [Fr. Leonard Van Vlaenderen] the pastor of that parish is a classmate and a close friend.

He might have also disclosed, but did not, that Fr. Van Vlaenderen had earlier served over a decade as Archbishop Weakland's secretary.

However, as I thought about the matter, I don't think that would have changed my view that some within our faith tradition simply have not understood and/or accepted the biblical notion of sin and forgiveness.

It's almost as if he's channeling Archbishop Weakland of old; he's determined that he's objective, and the problem is the ignorance "and/or" malice of people who disagree with him.

Archbishop Weakland sinned.

We'll get to that.

Presumably he went to the sacrament of reconciliation.

If you must presume, since you really cannot confirm it, then don't mention it.

He publicly apologized for his sin in a service I witnessed at the Cousins Center on May 24, 2002, nearly two years ago. Most of the $450,000 has been restored to the Archdiocese.

In the "apology," Archbishop Weakland defended the decision to pay. If the settlement was not hush money, there was no need to repay any of it. If it was hush money, then it should not have been paid at all, and those responsible should have been sanctioned for paying it, including restitution. If restitution was appropriate, then all not most should have been repaid, and by those responsible, not by a fund drive.

Archbishop Weakland did confess a sin at that service. "But I am also aware much self-pity and pride remain. I must leave that pride behind." He then got a 90 second standing ovation. Perhaps Fr. Brundage should also disclose if he joined in it.

To those who argue that Archbishop Weakland was not punished for his sin, I would like to ask them:

Would like to ask them? You're the editor; assign a reporter. Unless this is going to be a rhetorical question.

how would you like to have the worst thing you ever did lead the news tonight on CNN and the BBC?

Archbishop Weakland was a Great Leader, you see, and when a Great Leader blushes, that's punishment enough. Ordinary punishments are for ordinary people.

Some ordinary people apparently don't understand their place.

Every time we have printed anything about Archbishop Weakland, or printed his photograph, we have received hate-laced phone calls, letters, and e-mails. ...

On Sunday, Feb. 22, in every church of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the following words of Jesus, as remembered [sic] by St. Luke the Evangelist, were proclaimed: ... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured to you."

And "you" again cannot mean a Great Leader like Archbishop Weakland but can only mean anyone who still dares to criticize him. (Even if someone expresses hate for him, he's the one who said there could be valid reasons for hate, contrary to how "our faith tradition" understands "the biblical notion" of hate, see section 2303 of the Catechism.)

Hypothetically, if Archbishop Weakland's salvation is in danger because of his "pride and self-pity," what might help him? Probably not contriving to have his apology at a time and place that results in his receiving a standing ovation. Probably not having his opinions published in Commonweal. Probably not having him mentioned or pictured in the Archdiocesan newspaper. Probably not assigning him the usual tasks of a bishop emeritus.

What might help the pride, if not the self-pity, is all the flak he continues to get. What else might have helped?

Back in 1997, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Supporting Fund Inc. paid $2 million to endow chairs in Archbishop Weakland's honor at the Gregorian University and the Benedictine College, Sant’Anselmo. The Fund is a private foundation established primarily to support the archdiocese’s charitable work. I would have suggested Archbishop Weakland ask that his name be removed from these endowments and from anything else named in his honor.

Our Archdiocese commissioned a life-size bronze bust of Archbishop Weakland. (I do not know what it cost or how it was paid for.) I would have suggested that the Archbishop request it be beaten into plowshares.

If he must make public appearances, he might limit them to parish festival dunk tanks. (That might have not only helped his struggle with pride, have let people vent, but might also have raised $450,000 in short order.)

There might be some other appropriate suggestions. How should we determine when enough is enough, or to use St. Luke's test, if Archbishop Weakland has had the measure with which he measured in return measured to him? The Archbishop's friends and former subordinates are poor candidates to make this judgment. I suggest he empanel people with rather different relationships with him. For starters, I nominate Fr. Joseph Fessio, Paul Likoudis, and John Shiely.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Wal-Mart has announced plans to build one of its Supercenters in Franklin. It bought land in an area with zoning that does not prohibit such a project. That doesn't mean people won't
try to stop it.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Faith and the Human Enterprise (1992), by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland

Another misperception that must be avoided is to think of the laity in
the Church today as uninformed or bewildered sheep. That laity is often
better instructed than the pastors, and more zealous as well. They are not
so easily scandalized as some would assume. If they are scandalized, it is
more often by unjust or unfair procedures than by theological error. We
do a disservice to our lay people if we do not see them as mature,
committed, intelligent, discerning adults.

--p. 148


Speaking of procedures, Our parish has a question box. And speaking of liturgical design consulting fees, as I was, I submitted this question. (This font indicates the printed form.)

Comments for St. Alphonsus Parish Council

What is the total paid, or expected to be paid, to the liturgical design consultant for the recent building project?

Your comment will be forwarded to the person, committee or organization which is best able to address it. If a response is requested, it will be made either directly to you or will be posted on the "Response to Comments" bulletin board. Please sign below. Only signed comments will receive a response.


Friday, March 12, 2004


Bill to require clergy to report all abuse

The most controversial change to the bill in the State Senate was reversed by the Assembly.

On a voice vote, the Assembly overturned a state Senate decision to have clergy members report only suspected sexual abuse involving other clergy members - a change that had narrowed the original bill written to help child victims of abuse and stop future abuse.

The legislative session ends shortly, so to become law the bill in its present form would have to return to the Senate and be approved there.


Thursday, March 11, 2004


The March 4, 2004 Catholic Herald is now on-line with its permanent links.

Healing service a ‘resurrection’ for victim-survivor

As earlier, there was a healing service at St. Augustine Church in Milwaukee for a now-adult victim of sexual abuse by a priest. Or is he?

That priest, who retired in 1995, denies he abused Sneesby. According to Jerry Topczewski, administrative assistant to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, a review of allegations against the priest is still pending. "We don’t comment on them until all canonical processes are exhausted," he added.


The case was given to the archdiocesan-appointed independent investigator and the Diocesan Review Board. Their findings were submitted to Archbishop Dolan and the case was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome for judgment.

I assume the Archdiocese will not comment because the priest is presumed innocent unless finally determined guilty by the CDF. Yet there was this penitential rite of purification of the scene of his crime. Isn't that even more of a comment than anything Mr. Topczewski might have said?

If, on the other hand, this rite did not have to wait for the decision by the CDF, why does the Archdiocese have to wait for the final outcome of canonical proceedings regarding priests accused of sexual abuse before releasing their names?


March 9, 2004

Victims group walks away from talks with church

What we got here is failure to communicate the agenda for the meeting.

Leaders of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) say they expected to discuss release of the names of all 45 priests identified as abusers and of documents on how their cases were handled. Leaders of our Archdiocese say not.

[SNAP's local representative Peter] Isely said SNAP members were led to believe that Dolan and the church would give them an answer on the release of the names Monday, but church officials instead focused solely on money.

"They presented us with what essentially amounts to a final offer and made it clear they weren't budging one bit," Isely said. "It was $2.8 million for roughly 70 victims."

About $40,000 each.

I have to wonder how that compares the the fee of a liturgical design consultant that our Archdiocese mandates retaining for every church construction or renovation project. Our parish just finished a building project; maybe I'll ask via the question box. While I'm digressing, I've wonder if the ongoing study of our Archdiocese's central office staff will suggest developing this design consulting capability "in-house" to save our parishes all these consulting fees.

But one scandal at a time.

[Archbishop Timothy] Dolan said Isely is wrong. The release of offenders' names was not expected to be the topic of the session Monday, he said.

As planned, the archdiocese presented its observations about financial options and reaffirmed its commitment to the $4 million pool, Dolan said. No specific dollar amount was offered to Isely and the victims he represents through SNAP, he said.

And the mediators are, I expect, obligated to not discuss the matter.

Dolan said he is willing to talk about the release of the names of offender priests in future sessions if the two sides return to negotiations. The church hasn't ruled out releasing the information, but it has to explore some of the legal ramifications and review how other archdioceses have handled the issue, he said.

Pick up phone. Hit speed dial button for Matt Flynn. Say "Matt, can we do this?" Repeat with canon lawyer.

Isely said his group would go back to mediation with assurances that church officials were willing to do more than issue a final offer.

Is he saying SNAP's demands are also negotiable?


Sunday, March 7, 2004


This is the second week our parish bulletin has a blurb for the spring conference of Call to Action-Wisconsin. The featured speaker is Michael Morwood, his topic "No Genuine Reform Without Theological Reform." Sure can't call that a hidden agenda.


Saturday, March 6, 2004


A tangle of sin, forgiveness

There they were at St. John Vianney Church in Brookfield, planning the upcoming Confirmation ceremony. Archbishop Dolan was not available and neither was Bishop Sklba. How about retired Archbishop Weakland? The Associate Pastor discussed this with parish staff and no one saw any potential problems.

And then, sadly, once again, the people let down the clergy and staff.

"We received complaints, threats of protests, e-mails--and one caller who was vile and rude with (parish staff)," [Associate Pastor Fr. Leonard] Van Vlaenderen wrote [in a letter to parents reprinted in last Sunday's bulletin]. "You have no idea how troubled, saddened and disappointed I am over all of this.

"The Archbishop has publicly confessed his sin and has given us space to forgive him. . . . There's no question that some Church leadership has disappointed but this time, it is some of God's people who have done so."

Ah, yes, the apology, in which he said,

I understood the settlement agreement in question as compensation for Paul Marcoux because of the claim that I had interfered with his ability to earn income. Rather than spend the money litigating this claim, I agreed to an out-of-court settlement. In hindsight I can see why it has the appearance of "hush-money."

This remains disingenuous. It was money from Church funds to keep hushed, among other things, the 1980 letter from Weakland to Marcoux. That letter said,

I know you are pushing me for Church money, for some sort of Church support for the Midwest Institute of Christodrama. I feel you are putting me in an impossible situation here. I consider all that Church money as a sacred trust; it represents the offerings of faithful and I must be accountable to them for how it is all spent.

Perhaps someday he will apologize for what he actually did.

In his apology, he went on to say,

This money did not come from the Stewardship Appeal or from any diocesan funds designated for charitable or pastoral work. In my mind, the money I had given the Archdiocese was more than the settlement amount. To my continued embarrassment, I now am told that is not true.

He had "given" money to the Archdiocese? If so, it would not have been a "credit" against a settlement. The money, in fact, had been kept in a separate Archdiocesan account, drawing interest. Somehow, he thought both that he had given the money to the Archdiocese and that it remained his to use. Perhaps someday he see the contradiction and supplement his apology to conform to the facts.

You might wonder what kind of staff Archbishop Weakland had to reinforce his tendency to rationalization. Or as Fr. Richard McBrien put it in his column, published in the July 4, 2002 Catholic Herald,

During the recent prayer service in Milwaukee at which he apologized and asked for forgiveness, the archbishop pointed out that "in hindsight" he could understand why that financial settlement had "the appearance of 'hush money'."

Indeed, it was hush money, and one wonders how anyone involved in that decision could have possibly encouraged the archbishop to go forward with it.

That issue of the Herald identifies them: Richard Sklba and Wayne Schneider, respectively Auxiliary Bishop, and Archdiocesan Finance Director and Controller.

On the rationalization of his gifts as not gifts, Archbishop Weakland got a boost from Ethel Gintoft, former associate publisher of the Catholic Herald. She organized a fund drive to make up the difference between what the Archbishop had "given" and the $450,000.

So anyone who worked with our former Archbishop might be suspect, which brings us back to that letter in the bulletin at St. John Vianney Church. If no bishop is available, how about Fr. Van Vlaenderen himself?

Van Vlaenderen, who served as Weakland's secretary for more than a decade before Weakland retired in June 2002, wrote, "In light of this turn of events I think it best that I not be the confirming minister for this celebration."

He had been on Archbishop Weakland's staff. And now his parish staff tells him they see no problem with things he proposes.

Update: here's the bulletin [pdf] with Fr. Van Vlaenderen's letter.


Friday, March 5, 2004


State Senate OKs bill to curb clergy sex abuse

The bill would require clergy to report suspected abuse by other clergy, and extends the statute of limitations for future claims.

The bill still would require clergy to report to civil authorities any fellow clergy they suspect of abusing a child, but it no longer requires them to report cases in which they suspect that a child they have seen in the course of their professional duties is being abused by anyone.

The bill still contains an exception so that communications made to clergy in private or in a confessional setting would fall outside the reporting requirement.

One reason the legislators were persuaded to reduce the scope of the reporting requirement might be overreaching by victims' advocates.

Mary Guentner, a Wisconsin spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said she found the change in the reporting requirement "both disturbing and puzzling."

"Along with being puzzling, it makes me angry both personally and professionally," added Guentner, who works as a certified social worker in Milwaukee County. "No other profession has that kind of exclusion, and what it really translates into is not having to report any abuse, because then they (clergy) can use confidentiality and the seal of confession and not have to report anything."

The bill did not ultimately include a proposed one year period to file cases on which the statute of limitations had already run. Such a provision was expected to be found unconstitutional.


Thursday, March 4, 2004


The February 26, 2004 Catholic Herald is now on-line with its permanent links.

Archdiocese releases numbers it provided to John Jay researchers

This story discusses the information in the Archdiocesan newsletter of a few day's earlier, see February 24, 2004, 'Statistics Of Sexual Abuse Of A Minor'. While these numbers from the Archdiocese were used in the national compilation in the "Jay Report," neither the newsletter nor this Herald story contain a local breakdown of the genders and ages of victims. The national figures indicated that victims were most commonly teenaged boys.

Our Archdiocese will not, for now, release further names of priests who it deemed to have substantiated allegations against them. There were 45 such priests. Fifteen are dead, leaving 30. Fifteen of those have been publicly identified, leaving 15. As I read the story, from that last 15,

The report stated that Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was seeking administrative laicization from the pope for seven of the priests and that five are seeking voluntary laicization.

This leaves three priests unaccounted for. Even as to the 12, our Archdiocese appears to imply that all dispute the allegations of abuse. If a priest did not dispute the allegation(s), then it is hard to see how publicly naming him would prejudice a pending laicization or other canonical proceeding.

Local moviegoers give ‘Passion’ high marks

These local moviegoers were at a preview sponsored by the local station of Relevant Radio, a Catholic broadcasting chain. Presumably listeners, they might not quite be a cross-section of local Catholics. Catholic broadcasting is overall at least somewhat conservative.

Which reminds me, I have not read recently of liberals calling for their own "mainstream" Catholic broadcasting. Maybe if Mrs. Al Franken reverts ...

It was not an all-Catholic audience.

"As far as I was concerned it followed the Bible," said Dawn Miller, a Lutheran. The couple said they have seen the Passion Plays in Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps and equated the movie with the gripping drama seen in the Bavarian dramas performed every 10 years.

Based only on reviews and comments of viewers, the movie had already come across as more like a Passion Play than like other films based on a particular Gospel.

Church must reach out to black males, says speaker

Author Jawanza Kunjufu spoke at All Saints Church to an audience of about 100 (including Milwaukee's Acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, a parishioner).

Kunjufu also expressed the need for more Afro-centric depictions of individuals in the history of the Christian faith, particularly Jesus Christ himself. Citing anthropological and biblical evidence to justify such depictions, Kunjufu adamantly denounced the "white, weak, blue-eyed image of Jesus Christ."

Now that he mentions it, does the corpus on a crucifix ever have the physique of a carpenter, or does He look like the first nails he ever saw were the ones used to crucify Him?

Mr. Kunjufu had quite a few other points to make,

He attributed a lack of a faith life to many common domestic problems within black families.

"One in every two black husbands physically abuses his wife," Kunjufu noted, scribbling down the statistic on the overhead projector that he used as a visual aid throughout the two-hour presentation. "The same demon that drives racism drives sexism," he added. "It’s amazing that black men can see the speck of racism in a white man’s eye but not the log of sexism in their own eye."

Although Kunjufu focused primarily on men in condemning sexual abuse, he also chided young women for remaining in abusive relationships. According to Kunjufu, young women would be more self-reliant with a stronger faith in God. "People who are not saved look to someone else to make them happy," he explained.

Kunjufu also blamed the two-thirds divorce rate in the black community for the low male participation in the church. Single mothers, he claimed, often try to fill the void left in the household by estranged fathers with their sons. He commanded that mothers raise their sons with active discipline and involve their sons in the church from birth.

"If you tell your son, 'You’re the man of the house,' said Kunjufu, "you lied to him. Nine-year-old boys are not men."

some of which points apparently drew pointed responses in the Q & A.

No declared candidates, few voters in election

The Social Development Commission, a local government-funded anti-poverty agency, has a governing board elected from the citizens it serves.

But this year no candidates qualified, and not even the six incumbent resident commissioners got their names on the ballot. So the commission held the election with blank ballots and nothing but write-in candidates.

Afterward, SDC staff members were faced with the task of sorting through the write-in ballots to identify and locate the winning candidates, their addresses and phone numbers.

It didn't take long, though, because only 239 persons throughout the county voted.

SDC has an annual budget of $30 million.


Monday, March 1, 2004


Made whole, made holy

Michael Sneesby's pastor was found to have sexually abused him as a boy. Sneesby, now 47, attended a rededication service in the church where the abuse took place.

According to canon law, such an act is needed when sacred spaces are desecrated by acts that are "gravely injurious." The purpose of Sunday's ceremony was to cleanse the brick building of sin.

Current pastor Fr. Tom Wittliff presided.

Clad in a black robe and Birkenstocks, the white-haired priest asked on behalf of the church for forgiveness from victims and others whose faith has been shaken. He also made a plea for the trust of parents.

"Please, entrust your children to us," Wittliff said. "Don't be afraid. We love them."

Fr. Wittliff had at least one convinced parent present.

First he rubbed oils and used incense on the front doors. Then, with the help of Sneesby's two sons, who were serving as altar boys, Wittliff anointed the church's marble walls, its pulpit and, finally, its altar.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home