Diocese pledges more help to abuse victims
Task Force findings released to the public
By Joanne Flemming
The Green Bay Diocese should provide help to victims of alleged sexual abuse by diocesan clergy, employees and volunteers.
This was one recommendation of the task force Bp. Robert Banks appointed to review records of diocesan priests with allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
The task force released its findings and recommendations to the media at a press conference May 31.
It suggested helping victims two ways:
1. Providing a "well-publicized helpline for victims" as well as alternative phone numbers of social service agencies for those who do not want to call the diocese;
2. Giving the victim the chance to work with a professional therapist who specializes in sexual abuse. This therapist can work either for Catholic Charities or a victim assistance organization contracted by the diocese.
The goal of these two recommendations, the task force said, is to help victims bring healing to their experiences.
Both Bp. Banks and task force members agreed that more help must be provided to victims.
"Healing from the wounds of sexual abuse can take a lifetime," said Bp. Banks. "For that reason, any time there is a report of sexual misconduct or abuse, the church needs to acknowledge the betrayal of trust and erosion of faith that may have occurred some time ago in the lives of those abused."
Other highlights of the task force's findings include:
It reviewed the files of 39 priests who had allegations of sexually abusing minors. Seven of these are still in active ministry. Two are either in restricted ministry or have retired; neither has contact with parishes or schools. One is on administrative leave.
Bp. Banks said in the 11 years he has been in Green Bay the diocese has paid out less than $250,000 for settlements, legal costs and counseling for victims. The money did not come from the Bishop's Appeal, but from other funds, mainly investments.
The task force said most allegations it investigated took place 25-40 years ago. In response to a question from the media, Bp. Banks said priests then accused of sexual abuse were moved from parish to parish, but he emphasized such a practice was in the past, repeating "the past" several times.
Major among the task force's recommendations was that the diocese forward complaints it receives of sexual abuse of minors by its clergy, employees or volunteers to the appropriate civil authorities. The victim or other complainant should be advised of the option of also contacting civil authorities.
The diocese needs to follow a clear process for internal investigations of complaints.
Convicted or confirmed sexual offenders of minors should not be allowed to perform priestly duties.
Diocesan clergy, employees and volunteers should be instructed they need to inform church and civil authorities of suspected incidents of child sexual abuse.
The bishop thought the recommendations could be included in diocesan policy by fall.