On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Vatican released a nearly 500-page report investigating how disgraced former Cardinal and Archbishop of Washington Theodore E. McCarrick rose to the heights of the Church, despite leaders receiving reports he had sexually abused minors and adult seminarians over the course of decades.
For those who have suffered abuse by clergy, the report may trigger profound emotional distress and great pain. According to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, in a recently released statement, while the report is painful to read, it is necessary for healing.
“The victims of abuse, the Church and its members, along with the rest of society and future generations, all suffer from clergy sexual abuse, misconduct and scandals,” his statement said. “Not bringing these crimes into the light only deepens the wound and does not allow the Church a process of exposing the wrongdoing and sin.”
Archbishop Listecki added that if you or someone you know is the victim of abuse or there is suspicion of abuse, contact local law enforcement immediately.
“Any instance of abuse involving a person currently under 18 years of age (minor) should immediately be reported to the civil authorities. Locate the civil authorities in the 10 counties of the archdiocese,” he wrote. The archdiocesan website provides contact information for each of the 10 counties.
Additionally, if there is suspicion of child abuse or neglect, contact Child Protective Services in addition to law enforcement. To find the local CPS agency, visit: the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Report Abuse website at https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/reportabuse).
Reports can also be made to the Victim Assistance Coordinator, who is available to support abuse survivors. A formal complaint of abuse can be made to the archdiocese by calling the Victim Assistance Coordinator at 414-758-2232.
“An alternative way to make a formal report for those not wanting to contact the archdiocese is available to you 24 hours a day/seven days a week through the Healing Center website or by calling 414-219-5555,” Archbishop Listecki said. “You may visit archmil.org/clergy-abuse-response for more information on how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is taking steps to heal and protect from clergy sexual abuse.”
According to Suzanne Nickolai, safe environment program manager for the archdiocese, the feelings of sadness, anger, trauma and betrayal of trust are not only felt by survivors of abuse, but also family members of survivors, parish staff, lay ministers, clergy and all of the parish communities.
“Each person will process and absorb his or her feelings invoked by this report in a way that is comfortable for them. As Catholics, it is natural to struggle when we are disappointed in those we have entrusted with our faith lives,” she explained. “The report invokes feelings of sadness, anger, a betrayal of trust, and also the discouragement that we have not made as much progress in addressing and healing from the abuse crisis and scandal. However, I see so many reasons to continue to have hope in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Our healing journey continues as we continue the difficult effort of healing the wounded Body of Christ.”
It is important for our parishes and schools to be safe environments for all to live, learn and grow in the faith, Nickolai added.
“All of us play an important part in holding each other accountable to our commitment to protecting the vulnerable in our parishes, schools, and communities,” she said.
With the release of the McCarrick Report, as with the release of any clergy sexual abuse report, many survivors experience a reopening of old wounds, explained Victim Assistance Coordinator Stephanie Delmore, MA, LPC, victim assistance coordinator and employee support coordinator for parishes and schools.
“Everyone is unique in their process and timeline of healing from abuse. Where one is at in their healing journey may impact how such news as what is contained in the McCarrick report feels to them,” she said. “It can be painful to hear repeated stories of abuse. I am hopeful of Pope Francis’ commitment to ending clergy abuse and his leadership to direct this extensive report. May our remembrance of abuse survivors keep us vigilant in our efforts to protect individuals today.”
Archbishop Listecki added that bishops are not immune from reports of misconduct and advised those who have suffered abuse to contact the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service website, the new protocol implemented by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) to report misconduct allegations involving a bishop within the state.
The new WCC protocol includes a reporting system that follows the provisions outlined by the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the Light of the World”).