Today we at Awake Milwaukee begin sharing a series of recommendations that we developed to help our local Church take further steps to address the evil of sexual abuse.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has already taken important steps to ensure a safer Church, but more action is needed. We believe the best response to sexual abuse in the Church has two parts: first, accompanying and supporting victim-survivors in their pursuit of truth, accountability, and healing, and second, working proactively to prevent future abuse.
Awake’s recommendations are the product of several years of work, developed through our efforts to walk with and learn from abuse survivors across the country and our research of best practices already implemented by other Catholic dioceses in the United States.
As committed Catholics, we take seriously our shared responsibility to address the issue of sexual abuse. We offer these next steps as an act of service to our Church, in a spirit of faith and hope.
We shared our complete list of recommendations with leaders at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Friday, August 26; we have not yet received an official response to the document. You can read the detailed recommendations at www.awakemilwaukee.org/next-steps.
We begin by explaining our first set of recommendations, which concern updates to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s online list of restricted priests. You can find our explanation of the other sections here: Part 2: Keeping Adults Safe from Abuse, Part 3: Proactive Steps to Prevent Abuse, and Part 4: Transparency and Accountability of Lay-Led Advisory Boards.
Next Steps, Part 1: Updates to List of Restricted Priests
We believe that transparency requires full disclosure of all priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse and served within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, as well as clear communication when updates are made to the list of restricted priests.
Recommendations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
1. Add a section to the list of restricted priests on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (AOM) website that includes all priests from religious orders and from other dioceses who served within the geographical boundaries of the AOM and have been found to be credibly accused of sexual abuse by their diocese or religious order.
2. Place a heading on the website’s list of restricted priests indicating the date and content of the most recent update to names, allegations, assignment history, documents, or any other content on this page.
Why This Matters
The AOM’s list of restricted priests includes extensive documentation on diocesan priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse, but the current list excludes abusive clerics from religious orders and those from other dioceses (also known as “extern priests”) who have served in our archdiocesan parishes, schools, and other ministries.
Even committed Catholics do not always distinguish between diocesan, religious, and extern priests, and we have heard from many survivors about the pain they experience when their abusers are left off diocesan lists because of these distinctions. While religious order and extern priests do not fall under the direct authority of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, inclusion of their names on the archdiocesan list is necessary for both transparency and public safety. Among the 32 archdioceses in the United States, 22 now include religious order or extern priests on their website lists of credibly accused priests.
Given the large quantity of information on the AOM list of restricted priests, proactive communication about any updates to this content is necessary to draw attention to new information. Without clear indications of added information, important updates can easily go unnoticed by the public.
We found the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s approach useful. That archdiocese includes both religious and extern priests on its list, with a brief description of the allegations received by the religious order or other diocese about each priest. The date of the most recent update is provided, and new information is indicated in italics. Similarly, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston lists both religious order and extern priests and prefaces the list with a detailed description of the new information that was added in the most recent update.
We hope the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will follow the example of these and other dioceses that prioritize transparent communication and the needs of abuse survivors.
Check back on Thursday, when we’ll dive into Awake Milwaukee’s Next Steps, Part 2, which addresses abuse of adults in the Catholic Church.