MILWAUKEE – Noting that the Lent about to be completed was also celebrated as a Season of Mercy – a time for “acknowledging our sinfulness and our need to reconcile with God” – in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki told those who gathered at the Chrism Mass Tuesday night, March 30, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, that the Season of Mercy was “a stark recognition of the presence of sin in our world.”
“That sin has never been more present to us as a church than through the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse,” he said in prepared remarks delivered after Communion.
Archbishop Listecki shared a copy of the statement with your Catholic Herald prior to the celebration of the Chrism Mass. The complete text is available at www.chnonline.org.
“As a bishop, a priest, and as a man of faith, I apologize to anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse,” the archbishop stated, noting that those who didn’t do everything they could to stop it, “including some bishops,” go against “everything the church and the priesthood represent.”
“Tonight, in this holiest of weeks, we consecrated the holy oil of the sick. This oil will be used this next year for anointing and healing throughout our archdiocese. Healing we all need.”
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop Listecki spoke about criticism that has been leveled at Pope Benedict XVI for his handling of cases involving clergy sexual abuse of minors, including that of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the church, by civil authorities, by church officials, and by bishops,” the archbishop said. “And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”
Archbishop Listecki credited victims/survivors who have come forward with their stories of abuse, “those who have been relentless in their criticism of the Church; those who have pushed and prodded” with getting the church to change.
“…because of their persistence and perseverance, we know the church HAS changed,” he said. “We owe these victims/survivors our deep gratitude and we acknowledge our own actions have not always expressed that gratitude adequately.”
Noting that the pope didn’t need him to defend him or his actions, Archbishop Listecki said that the Holy Father’s actions, “his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves.”
“The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Listecki noted that policies and procedures in effect in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and in dioceses throughout the United States ensure that “no priest with a substantial allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can ever serve as a priest again in our church.”
He said it was actions, not words, that would demonstrate the church’s resolve.
“And, in some ways, regardless of what I say, tonight or any other time, our critics will say it is not enough,” the archbishop said. “But that cannot and will not prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed, and, determined, to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.”
In acknowledging that mistakes were also made by people in law enforcement, medicine and the media when it came to handling clergy who sexually abused children, Archbishop Listecki said, “We have ALL learned so much.”
The archbishop expressed hope that the church has “become a model for what to do after decades of what not to do.”
“We are a Sacramental church. Tonight, in this holiest of weeks, we consecrated the holy oil of the sick. This oil will be used this next year for anointing and healing throughout our archdiocese. Healing we all need,” Archbishop Listecki said.