MILWAUKEE -- Catholic priests and victims of clergy abuse united Tuesday in Milwaukee, and we're told this is the first of its kind of partnership in the country. It comes after the two sides began to really talk to one another and listen, and comes with a sense of urgency, as a deadline approaches for filing a case for restitution through the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy process, for victims of abuse.
Priests and victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy took out a full page ad in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, talking about clergy sex abuse. To many, the groups are bitter enemies, but all this changed about a year ago. For the past year, a small group of priests and victims have been meeting and talking, and developing a message, urging victims of abuse to meet the deadline for filing a case for restitution through the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy process. That deadline is February 1st, 2012, and is an important one, for if victim's don't file their case by that date, they may not ever have an opportunity for restitution through the legal system.
The group is also offering resources for victims. "Helping them to get the truth out, and to begin the process of healing," Father Gregory Greiten of St. Bernadette Parish in Milwaukee said.
Peter Isely, with the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says those most affected by the sexual abuse have been the victims, and their families, but also priests of integrity. "It has really affected their struggle to bring the message of the gospel to their communities, so that wound to the priesthood needs to be healed," Isely said. Isely says this alliance of priests and survivors is one-of-a-kind. "There has never been an alliance of surivors and priests of any kind, that has been joined together and trying to publicly express first, our desire for justice together, and for healing together," Isely said.
Vicky Schneider was victimized when she was 14, and is one of those named in the ad, urging others to come forward. "I have found healing. It's not perfect. It's a journey, and it will continue to be a journey," Schneider said.
The small core group of priests and survivors are hoping their group will expand, and the dialogue will continue, as well as the demand for truth. FOX6 is told Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki knows about the group, and has neither encouraged, nor discouraged it.