Milwaukee Priest: Greater Truth in Sex Abuse Matters

Dotcommonweal has the surprising story about the vice-chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and his response to the sex abuse crisis: "Last week, Fr. James Connell, vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, stood on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and called on his bishop to release documents related to the local sexual-abuse crisis: 'I am absolutely convinced that we need the truth. Justice requires that the truth be known.' His appearance was a surprise to SNAP, which organized the press conference." 

Today Fr. Connell released an open letter to priests asking them to "raise our united voices" in calling for greater truth regarding the crimes of sexual abuse.  (CW has posted a PDF of the letter on their site.)  Some excerpts:


Surely, everyone wishes that this crisis would be resolved for the good of all. Unfortunately, however, I find that some people are saying that the victim/survivors should simply forgive and move on with life. Yet such an expectation overlooks what seems to me to be the necessary sequence of events for forgiveness and peace to happen: (1) knowing and understanding the whole truth; (2) doing justice based on the whole truth; (3) allowing healing to blossom over time; (4) then granting forgiveness that releases one from bondage; and (5) finally welcoming the peace that comes from healing and forgiveness.

What has caused me to be more attentive now to this scandal and crisis? Listening to and being moved by the stories that I hear. These stories can be discomforting but they are part of the truth needing to be revealed and understood. 


My brother priests, obviously the revelation of the truth is not forthcoming easily, but we can be the catalyst for change. We have been sent into the Lord’s vineyard with a mission to provide voice and witness to all that Jesus Christ is about. I trust that you will do all that you can to help bring about a grace-filled resolution to this crisis and scandal. And, as I say, we need to do this in a vocal and public way.

I suggest that this Christmas season we raise our united voices in calling for the necessary sequence of truth, justice, healing, forgiveness, and peace, regarding this most difficult challenge in the Church. Indeed, doing so in this season of peace would provide a route to peace for all who suffer in any way because of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Besides his bold statements, what is especially noteworthy about Fr. Connell's comments is the high position he holds in the archdiocese. 

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Charle Reisz
7 years ago
I agree with the truth as spoken by Father Connell.  So far the heirarchy of the
RCC has been asking for ''(5) finally welcoming the peace that comes from healing and forgiveness'' while bypassing steps 1 thru 4.  In fact they have been in denial of the real problem.  It is not going to happen.  The heirarchy needs to get their head out of the sand and proceed with solving the problem as outlined above otherwise they are stuck in the hell that was unleashed by the guilty parties including those that covered up the problem and those who have been in denial. 
Jim McCrea
7 years ago
This man is the kind of priest who should be raised to the episcopacy.

Anyone want to take a bet on that happening?
Martin Gallagher
7 years ago
"called on his bishop to release documents related to the local sexual-abuse crisis"

What would he suggest?  A Wikileaks-style data dump of all confidential records of victims abused during the Weakland era?  It seems as though a private meeting between individual victims and the bishop would be more responsible.  Isn't this already happening?
Pearce Shea
7 years ago
Its worth noting that many times, the Bp. hand's are tied. In the case of settlements, the Bp. frequently cannot legally release any information.
Rosemary McHugh
7 years ago
Thank you, Fr Martin, for letting us know of the statement of Fr Connell.  It gives me hope that the clergy will begin to act like Jesus would act, in protecting the victims of priest sex abuse and in ridding the priesthood of predator priests.

As a physician, I have met many who have been sexually abused by priests as children. Many are hurt for life.

An expert in human rights and in crimes against humanity has called the sexual abuse of children by priests as "soul murder".  i agree with his assessment.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, in my experience, is the only member of the hierarchy who seems to really understand the severe trauma and theft of childhood that priest sex abuse causes.  

I had the opportunity to meet Dr Martin this past summer in Dublin.  He is one of very few clerics who has the courage to speak out for the victims.  

Now I can add Fr Connell of Milwaukee to that list.  Hopefully, many more priests will get the courage to stand with the victims and rid the priesthood of this scourge.

Molly Roach
7 years ago
The bishops are corrupt and it will take courageous priests to call them out to face the corruption.  I am grateful for Father Connell's challenge.  I hope he emboldens his fellow priests because if they start objecting, and they do it together, I believe they can lead us to healing.


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