Part 4: Recommendations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee – Transparency and Accountability of Lay-Led Advisory Boards

Today we examine Awake’s fourth and final set of recommendations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, related to two advisory boards that provide advice to Archbishop Listecki on the topics of sexual abuse and the fitness of clergy members or lay ministers for ministry. We’ll spell out what we’re recommending to the archdiocese in part 4, and why we believe these changes matter.  

Awake’s complete set of recommendations for our archdiocese is available here. If you’ve read the last three blog posts—part 1, part 2, and part 3—you know that these recommendations come out of Awake’s efforts to walk with and listen to abuse survivors from across the United States and careful research of best practices in other dioceses. 

Next Steps, Part 4: Transparency and Accountability of Lay-Led Advisory Boards

We believe transparency and accountability are essential for the effective functioning of consultative bodies like the Fitness for Ministry Oversight Board (FMOB) and the Community Advisory Board (CAB).

Recommendations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
  1. Publish on the archdiocesan website the FMOB’s twice-annual reviews of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s compliance with Safe Environment and Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requirements, as well as statistics about the number of cases reviewed by the FMOB and the numbers of these cases that resulted in removal from ministry, disciplinary measures, or other action.
  2. Include on the archdiocesan website a public commitment from Archbishop Listecki to follow the recommendations of the FMOB regarding removal of a cleric from active ministry.
  3. Appoint a lay spokesperson not employed by the archdiocese for both boards, list their contact information on the archdiocesan website, and encourage the public to contact this spokesperson with questions or concerns.
  4. Publish a twice-annual report from the CAB detailing the projects, improvements, and other work undertaken by that board, as well as what they have learned from listening to survivors.
Why This Matters

The existence of two lay-led boards providing advice on sexual abuse and ministry suitability is a positive step, but Awake recommends additional steps to increase the transparency and accountability of these boards. Little information about their operations and initiatives is currently available to the public.

The archdiocesan website says that the FMOB is made up of at least six members. “The Board members will be respected members of the community and have expertise in the areas of psychology, law, and/or public policy as well as ministerial experience,” the website says. The board also includes an experienced pastor. Members are appointed for renewable five-year terms.

One of the FMOB’s tasks is to review the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s compliance with safe environment policies twice a year. Publishing the reviews would give the archdiocese an opportunity to reassure Catholics that it is actively working for the safety of all. Similarly, providing basic information about cases being reviewed by the FMOB (while maintaining legally required confidentiality) would increase confidence that concerns are being taken seriously.

Archbishop Listecki has publicly stated his commitment to follow the recommendations of the Diocesan Review Board (which advises him on cases involving the sexual abuse of minors) about the removal of priests or deacons from active ministry. If the archbishop is similarly committed to following the recommendations of the FMOB on cases of other types of misconduct, Milwaukee Catholics would benefit from a public communication of this pledge. If he is not able to make this commitment, it would be beneficial to explain this to the faithful as well.

Awake also recommends that the archdiocese designate a lay spokesperson for each of these boards, particularly because it gives concerned Catholics someone to contact to ask questions, offer suggestions, and raise concerns. Empowering a spokesperson for each board and making them easily accessible would increase confidence in the work of these boards and enhance their ability to listen directly to the faithful throughout the Archdiocese. 

According to the archdiocesan website, the CAB is designed to provide “input and feedback to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on its policies, procedures, programs, response and outreach to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, their families, and others that have been deeply affected by clergy sexual abuse.” Providing regular updates about this work will strengthen the community’s understanding of the CAB’s projects, the improvements it has recommended, and its essential work of learning from victim-survivors.

Awake’s research of dioceses around the country shows that lay-led advisory groups vary greatly among dioceses, but the most effective boards offer clear, consistent communication about their work.

For example, the Archdiocese of Vancouver publishes updates twice a year from its “Implementation Working Group,” which works to “review systems and policies so as to find opportunities for improvement in how victims/survivors are cared for and how abuse is reported.” These reports provide an overview of progress made and objectives that still need work. The Diocese of Lansing, Michigan uses a “Code of Conduct Advisory Council” to assess clerical misconduct, and the council’s role and statutes are clearly outlined on the diocesan website.

We hope that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will take these recommended steps to increase the transparency and accountability of these lay-led boards.  

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