MKE’s Archbishop Listecki defends his handling of sex abuse

 Via the Marquette Tribune:

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki appeared before a standing-room-only crowd at Sensenbrenner Hall Tuesday, addressing the church’s handling of sexual abuse among priests during an “On the Issues” interview with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy.

Recently, Listecki has come under fire after the arrest of Father Edmund Donkor-Baine, a priest from Guyana who visited LaCrosse when Listecki was bishop there. Donkor-Baine is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault for allegedly trying to indecently touch a woman he was counseling through a divorce. The priest is also accused of trying to force her to touch him.

Reportedly, the woman informed the Diocese of LaCrosse, which took no action. She then turned to the police. Listecki told reporters after Gousha’s interview that he had to side with Donkor-Baine because of a lack of evidence, and that his decision was justified. Listecki told Gousha the LaCrosse diocese was “extremely proactive” and ethical in the way it operated on the issue of sexual abuse. He said any allegations were a first priority and that he relied on the expertise of diocese board members to make decisions regarding sexual abuse.

Listecki testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 12 in opposition to legislation that proposed a temporary removal of the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.

I regret I can’t think of a less apoplectic way to phrase this: How can Listecki possibly justify opposing removing the stature of limitations on child rape?

A Jan. 22 letter from Eau Claire Police Chief Jerry Matysik to state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) accused Listecki of being intentionally misleading at the hearing. Listecki refuted the accusation, saying the diocese immediately reported cases of sexual abuse to authorities in every case. Listecki also responded to claims made by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests that he has the “nation’s worst record” on dealing with child sex abuse.

A November 2009 SNAP press release stated the LaCrosse Diocese has left 64 percent of priests accused of sexual abuse in ministry, as opposed to the national average of under 10 percent. Listecki said those numbers don’t only reflect the time when he was bishop of LaCrosse, but include the prior time period. Listecki became bishop in March 2005, succeeding Raymond Burke, who left to become archbishop of St. Louis.

 Listecki also said he has no intention of talking with SNAP members, who have repeatedly requested a meeting.

“I don’t believe in politicizing the issue,” Listecki said. “Groups sometimes have other agendas in mind. I am always openly willing to meet with a victim, but SNAP, no.”

The reporter might not have had a chance to address Listecki directly, but the obvious follow-up question to this statement would be, “How, exactly, does SNAP politicize the issue?”

Readers will recall one of Listecki’s recent predecessors Rembert Weakland regularly shredded internal reports on sex abuse in the diocese.

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