Everything we do is an effort to restore the trust and credibility that was so badly broken in 2002 as news reports highlighted the Church’s response to past abuse allegations. We want to restore that confidence so people truly know the Church has changed, not just by its words, but by its actions.I think they don't update these on the archdiocesan website until after the emails come out. Once it's available I'll post a link.
But trust is fragile. As hard as we work to build it, it can be shattered again in a moment, and with it, all the good work that has been accomplished can be dismissed as meaningless.
I’m afraid that’s what happened as news reports highlighted the situation in Wauwatosa, where a priest was allowed to remain in ministry as civil authorities from another state investigated an allegation from the 1970s, which was just recently brought forward. To complicate things, the priest is not a diocesan priest, but a member of the Salvatorians, and the allegation was initially brought forward by a third party, not the victim (now an adult), and the victim was not willing to cooperate with civil authorities, so no allegation had been substantiated.
But then a report about the same priest came from one of our schools, from a teacher, thankfully, who was following their Safe Environment training. Although charges were not brought by civil authorities, in looking at the complete picture of the priest’s history, we see a priest who was repeatedly warned about boundary issues. None of these behaviors were sexual abuse, but collectively they call into question allowing this priest to remain serving as pastor of two parishes, each with schools or daycare programs.
While our decisions followed the letter of the law in accordance with existing policies, I am not sure they followed the spirit of the law with regard to our pledge to be vigilant in keeping children safe. So, as I read the newspaper and reflected upon the comments some parishioners made to me, I could feel the Church’s credibility crumbling again.
So last night I acknowledged that we are called to place our imperfect lives before our God, asking that He continue the work of reconciliation in us. Our prayer for atonement is more than words. We are different people today and a different Church because of the acknowledgement of the sins and crimes committed by some.
I think this is a good sign. Men who never admit mistakes are the least credible people on the face of the Earth. Credibility isn't earned by the deafening silence of the last forty years, it's earned by admitting mistakes when they are made. I think that is what many who have lost trust are looking for, and that willingness to be held accountable not if, but when mistakes are made is actually a major plus to improving credibility.
JS: Archbishop Jerome Listecki suggests church erred in Wauwatosa priest case