WEST BEND -- A group representing survivors of priest abuse is asking that the Milwaukee Archdiocese open all its documents relating to its investigations and recent depositions in court. This, on a day of reflection and remorse for the church.
For the second straight year, Archbishop Jerome Listecki began Child Abuse Prevention Month with a Mass of Atonement. The Mass involves the Archbishop lying down in front of the altar at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend Thursday, to symbolize humility as a church before God. Listecki then talked of healing and penance while turning to God for forgiveness and healing.
Also on Thursday, a group of victims' advocates for those who have been abused by priests urged the Archbishop to release all documents regarding the cases they've investigated over the years.
Peter Isely with the Survivor's Network of Those Abused By Priests says victims through an attorney representing them will ask a judge to released these documents, including testimony by former Archbishop Rembert Weakland and his Chief Deputy Bishop Richard Sklba when the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy case is heard next Thursday, April 5th. The group sent a letter to Archbishop Listecki Thursday asking him formally to release the documents.
570 people have filed claims against the Archdiocese, alleging they were abused by priests as children. "The people who need to be held responsible have not been held responsible. What you have in these documents is the truth. The gospel tells us that the truth shall set us free," Isley said.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese says most abuse survivors want their identity protected, so the Archdiocese will do what it can to protect that. The Archdiocese spokesman says Thursday night's Mass was about focusing on the spirituality of the church - not legal proceedings. "We have an obligation to protect the identities of those individuals who do not want to be disclosed. We are also trying to honor those commitments we've made to individuals," Archbishop Listecki said.
Thursday night's Mass began with a protest, but there were no signs or chants. The protest was quietly staged - flowers, candles and pictures of abuse victims were placed outside of the church. Members of SNAP joined in Thursday's Mass.
U.S. bankruptcy judge Susan Kelley, scheduled to hear the arguments on unsealing the documents next week, previously issued a protective order to seal the information. Attorneys for the victims' group plan to say releasing the documents will show the scope of the situation in Wisconsin. The Archdiocese says no one group represents all victims, and most victims chose to file their claims without identifying themselves.