Archdiocese of Milwaukee

In December 2019, Awake submitted a list of questions to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, seeking a greater understanding of the local response to the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Between February and July 2020, the Archdiocese provided responses to all of these questions. These questions and responses can be found, divided into eight categories, below.

Safe Environment Education and Compliance

Question from Awake Milwaukee, 1) What process is in place to collect feedback from those who have attended Safe Environment Education sessions?

Response from Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Any concerns regarding any facilitators or content in the safe environment program’s education sessions would be directed to the safe environment program manager. Any feedback can be directed to my office via phone or email. My contact information is listed on the Safe Environment webpage for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I already do receive feedback regarding the sessions, and I am always willing to listen.  

2) What training is required for a person to be considered qualified to facilitate these Safe Environment Education sessions? Is there any ongoing supervision or formation of these facilitators?

A safe environment education facilitator must have at least one letter of reference from a pastor.  We look for facilitators with good presentation skills, comfortable with the subject matter, as well as knowledgeable in mandatory reporting and the Charter for the Protection of Young People. The facilitator must attend facilitator training and register as a facilitator. Regarding ongoing supervision and formation, most of our facilitators have been facilitating sessions for several years and/or are in ministry in our parishes/schools.

3) Does the current Safe Environment Education curriculum include information about abuse of adults?

The current safe environment education curriculum is a child abuse prevention curriculum as the required participants are individuals that are working for the Church or are volunteering in a position that has contact with children. Abuse of adults is a topic that would be addressed in the Code of Ethical Standards. We are always relooking at ways to help better equip our volunteers and employees in regards to abuse prevention. We do have trainings in process of development and approval to address the abuse of adults that we have been working on. Any additional training for safe environment certification would be recommended for specific groups based on specific ministry areas.

4) What provisions are made for survivors of abuse who wish to volunteer in the Catholic Church but might be triggered by the content of these Safe Environment sessions?

We grant exemptions for attending the in-person live training to a survivor of abuse who wishes to volunteer or work. Each individual is worked with on an individual basis according to their unique situations and needs.

5) What is the status of the Archdiocese’s exploration of options for updating and improving this training?

It is currently in progress.

6) What are the rules for background checks and Safe Environment training at Catholic institutions for which the Archdiocese is not directly responsible, e.g. Catholic universities, retreat centers, etc.?

Separate entities that are not archdiocesan parishes or schools would fall under the religious order or board of directors that govern them and would follow the requirements for employees of those organizations. We require any volunteer working with minors in one of our parishes or schools from an outside organization to meet our safe environment certification requirements for our archdiocese. We require any group organized through our parishes or schools that are participating at any of these Catholic institutions organized through the parish or school to meet all of our safe environment certification requirements. Most of these organizations have their own process for meeting their comparable requirements of safe environment certification.

7) What is the Archdiocesan process for ensuring that priests brought in from outside of the United States have no history of credible abuse allegations? What review and formation is done to ensure they have healthy psychosocial behavior? How are they acclimated to the legal and cultural norms of our country?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee provided an extended answer to this question, which can be found here. We have highlighted two key sections below: 

When we are considering an international priest to serve here we do not just respond to any priest that makes himself available for ministry. We only consider priests that are recommended by another priest currently serving here or by a religious order superior or diocesan bishop with whom we have a previous relationship. We then ask for background information on the priest and arrange for an in person visit if they are able to visit or if not arrange for a Skype interview. If the priest has already worked for a time in another diocese in the United States, we will check with the Vicar for Clergy from that diocese to get a report on how the priest served for them. If that is all still promising we then communicate with the person’s bishop or religious superior.

Priest candidates that are accepted in the seminary program complete a number of psychological tests and speak with a psychologist. We do not do this for priests coming into the diocese to serve, instead relying on the observed behavior of them by their bishops, religious superiors, and colleagues that know them best.

8) How is the Archdiocese implementing the requirements of Pope Francis’s motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi? How is this implementation being communicated to the public? 

Even before Vos estis lux mundi was issued, the Archdiocese had begun working on a protocol to ensure bishop accountability. That work extended to include all of the dioceses of the state. The protocol will include reporting capability through an outside third party contact. The full protocol and a flow chart have recently been completed and the reporting mechanism is being set up.

As soon as the reporting mechanism is linked to the diocesan websites, a public announcement will be made with directions on how to report and how reports will be handled.  The reporting portal will be on the front page of in a manner similar to the Ethics Point portal for reporting possible financial misconduct.

Update from Awake: This reporting system is now set up and can be found at

Community Advisory Board

9) What is the defined purpose of the Community Advisory Board

The purpose of the Community Advisory Board has been to bring together a group of individuals that have diverse knowledge and professional experience in relevant areas pertaining to abuse, in order to provide input and feedback to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on its policies, procedures, response and assistance to survivors of clergy sexual abuse to prevent, protect and respond to abuse. The members of the CAB are also asked to help share in the larger communities and professions that we serve to raise awareness of abuse prevention measures in the Church and beyond into our communities. The CAB serves as an instrument of education and vigilance and a force to see that the Archdiocese does not relax in its response.

Since the Community Advisory Board has been in the process of having new members over the past 6 months, we are reviewing the defined purpose of the board for any updates and changes.

10) How often does this board meet?  Who attends these meetings, beyond the board members themselves?

The Board meets quarterly and the meetings are attended by the board members, the Archbishop, Vicar for Clergy, Chancellor, Safe Environment Program Manager, and Victim Assistance Coordinator.

11) How and by whom are members selected?

They are selected based on professional expertise and/or valuable experiences and points of view that provide them with a valuable perspective not only to provide feedback and professional input but also to give voice to certain perspectives. We purposefully look for individuals that are willing to provide objective and honest feedback to the Archbishop and other members of the board. They are selected by recommendation and review by other members of the board, archdiocesan employees, and other professionals. Members are officially appointed by the Archbishop. 

The current board contains individuals with decades of experience as the following: social workers, former guardian ad litem and child advocate, psychologist, director of sexual assault survivor services organization, lay minister with pastoral counseling background, individual from the seminary, former probation officer who specialized in sex offenders, law enforcement with experience in sensitive crimes, young adult, former National Review Board member, attorney, and a psychotherapist. 

We do not publicly identify any member of the board as a survivor or family member of a survivor of abuse or clergy abuse unless the individual chooses to be identified as a survivor or family member of a survivor. We feel very strongly this is a valuable voice to bring to the CAB.

12) What are the goals or projects they are currently working on? 

Policy reviews, trainings, current events, articles, discussions as the board requests or sees need for discussion.

13) Is the Archdiocese open to creating more transparency about the work of this board by sharing meeting agendas and minutes? 

We are open to posting the dates of the meetings, and would be willing to certainly consider any agenda items recommended. A proposed agenda is sent to the board members for them to submit any topics they wish to discuss or review. Subcommittees are formed when deemed necessary by the board. This is an advisory board.

Reporting and Investigative Process

14) What are the processes in place to receive and respond to complaints about grooming behavior that has not escalated to the level of abuse?

Diocesan Standards for Ministerial Behavior Protocol on Ethical Standards

The Code of Ethical Standards is given to all clergy and church personnel and is available on the Archdiocesan web site.

  • All church personnel and all volunteers who have regular contact with minors or go on a retreat or field trip (even one time) are required to document that they have read, understand, and agree to abide by the Code of Ethical Standards.
  • A summary of the Code dealing with reporting misconduct has been sent to every archdiocesan parish school and religious education program for distribution to families.
  • The Code will periodically be reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board to determine the need for revision.
  • Education programs on the Code will be included in parish, school, and seminary workshops.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee relies upon its Code of Ethical Standards for Church Leaders, which is on the archdiocesan website and every Church Minister must read, acknowledge and sign a statement that they have read the Code and understand its applicability to my work and/or volunteer efforts for the Church. I also have read the Mandatory Reporting Responsibilities and understand my responsibilities. 

Several sections would apply to this question of unethical, but not illegal behavior:

  • Church ministers must notify their supervisors or, if needed, other Church authorities of ethical misconduct by another Church minister.
  • When Church ministers are uncertain whether a particular situation or course of conduct would violate this Code of Ethical Standards, they should consult with peers knowledgeable about ethical issues and this Code, or the Chancery Office, in order to determine the proper response.
  • When Church ministers believe that one of their colleagues may have violated this Code of Ethical Standards, they should make a good faith attempt to resolve the issue, if possible, by bringing it to the attention of the individual. If this fails, the Church minister must take further action by reporting to the supervisor or next higher authority, or by referral to the Chancery Office.
  • In cases where there are clear indicators of unethical, but not illegal actions by a Church minister, notification is to be made to a supervisor, or the proper Church authorities.

In addition, all volunteers who have regular contact or go on a retreat or field trip (even one time) with children and young people, are also trained in recognizing and reporting child sexual abuse and all abuses.

15) Has the Archdiocese considered implementing additional options for reporting abuse, such as an email address or an online form?

A new Victim Assistance Coordinator [started] on July 1. This suggestion will be passed on to her. There is already a place for an on-line report on the archdiocesan website.

16) When the Archdiocese receives allegations of abuse, does the Archdiocese have experts investigate all electronic devices accessible to the alleged abuser for improper uses? Does the Archdiocese provide full access to all electronic devices to civil authorities for their investigations?

Allegations are first turned over to civil authorities. If their investigation involves concerns about electronic devices the accused is encouraged to cooperate. If civil authorities turn the investigation back to the Archdiocese the case is handed over to a professional, independent investigator and the accused is encouraged to offer full cooperation including access to electronic devices if the investigation goes in that direction.

Abuse of Adults

17) What is the Archdiocese’s system for people to report sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct with adults? Are those who are victimized as adults entitled to the same investigative process and pastoral care as those who were abused as children?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee relies upon its Code of Ethical Standards for Church Leaders and several sections would apply to this question:

  • Church ministers must be committed to establishing and maintaining a professional work environment, which is free from intimidation and harassment. Harassment can occur as the result of a single severe incident, or a pattern of conduct which results in the creation of a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. Harassment encompasses a broad range of physical or verbal behavior, which can include, but is not limited to, the following:
    • physical or mental abuse; racial insults; derogatory ethnic slurs; sexual advances or unwelcome touching; sexual comments or sexual jokes; requests for sexual favors used as a condition of employment, or affecting any personnel decision such as hiring, promotion, compensation, or termination.
  • Church ministers within [and members of] the archdiocese who, in good faith, report a violation of a law or regulatory requirement or ethical standard or who participate in good faith in any resulting investigation or proceeding shall not suffer harassment, retaliation, or adverse employment [or member] consequence. The archdiocese or parish will take disciplinary action (up to and including termination) against an employee who in its assessment and in violation of this policy has engaged in retaliatory conduct against a good faith reporter.

In addition, the archdiocese is working to establish a reporting mechanism through EthicsPoint, as well as an independent lay board of professionals to oversee investigations and make recommendations about an individual’s (clergy or lay) fitness for ministry for items that do not rise to the level of criminal behavior. The hope is to have this in place by July 1, 2020.

Update from Awake: The “Fitness for Ministry Oversight Board” is now in place. More information can be found here:

18) What are the Archdiocesan policies about what behavior by a cleric toward an adult would be considered sexually abusive? Does Archdiocesan policy consider any sexual relationship between a cleric and a parishioner or someone seeking spiritual advice abusive? How are these policies communicated to clerics, church employees, volunteers, and other parishioners?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee relies upon its Code of Ethical Standards for Church Leaders and several sections would apply to this question:

  • Church ministers must be committed to establishing and maintaining a professional work environment, which is free from intimidation and harassment. Harassment can occur as the result of a single severe incident, or a pattern of conduct which results in the creation of a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. Harassment encompasses a broad range of physical or verbal behavior, which can include, but is not limited to, the following:
    • physical or mental abuse; racial insults; derogatory ethnic slurs; sexual advances or unwelcome touching; sexual comments or sexual jokes; requests for sexual favors used as a condition of employment, or affecting any personnel decision such as hiring, promotion, compensation, or termination.
  • Church ministers must be knowledgeable of the laws of the State of Wisconsin regarding sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation, and the reporting requirements of the Archdiocese and of civil law which apply to such misconduct.
  • All allegations and concerns involving the sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, or sexual exploitation, as defined by Wisconsin laws, must be reported promptly to the appropriate civil authorities.

Archdiocesan Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Office is available, as needed, for assistance and consultation on all issues of sexual misconduct, including the notification of proper civil authorities regardless of whether the alleged behavior is past or present.

Credibly Accused Clergy

19) What are the requirements for religious orders to be permitted to operate in the Archdiocese? Do these requirements include the submission of a list of members who served in the Archdiocese and have been found credibly accused by their religious order? Could these names be added to the Archdiocesan website?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee requires that the diocesan bishop or major superior of every diocesan or religious order cleric serving in the Archdiocese complete the Tri-Conference document attesting to fitness for ministry. These are to be kept on file in the Chancery office. Religious Orders are not required to supply the names of any member of their order with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor and who at one time may have served in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to be provided to the Archdiocese. However, the Archdiocese does ask Religious Orders to supply the names of any members of its Order with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor to the Chancery Office, if that member is currently living in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

The Archdiocese has no plans to post the names of members of Religious Orders with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor to its website. Members of Religious Orders are not accountable to the Archbishop of Milwaukee, but rather to their Ordinary. The decision to post such names is up to the individual Religious Order.

20) Has the Archdiocese of Milwaukee ever conducted a thorough investigation of the files of all deacons for allegations of abuse of minors or adults? Would names of abusive deacons be listed on the Archdiocesan website along with those of priests?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has not conducted a complete investigation of files of Permanent Deacons. However, if there was a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a Permanent Deacon, their name would be added to the archdiocesan website, provided such a posting would not cause harm to or reveal the identity of the abuse survivor.

21) What is the monitoring system for priests who are restricted from ministry because of credible allegations of sexual abuse? 

Most priests who were removed from ministry for substantiated reports of sexual abuse of minors are either dead or laicized. We cannot monitor a laicized priest because we no longer have any authority over him. For the very few who are still alive and not laicized, there is no legal way to monitor them and to portray that we are could give a false sense of safety. Their names and pictures are on public display on the website so the community knows about them. We have had no adverse reports.

22) What ongoing financial support do these restricted priests receive from the Archdiocese? What is the source of those funds?

There is no financial support provided from the Archdiocese. For those who are eligible, they receive a monthly amount from their pension fund. This is a qualified pension plan and the Archdiocese does not control it.

Support for Survivors

23) What ongoing support does the Archdiocese currently offer to survivors of clergy sexual abuse? 

The Archdiocese continues to fund therapy for clergy abuse survivors and offers the annual Mass of Atonement as an opportunity for prayer.

24) What is the status of the $500,000 therapy fund created for abuse survivors as part of the bankruptcy settlement? Have those funds been spent? 

The Therapy Fund, established July 1, 2016, at the conclusion of the Archdiocese’s Chapter 11 proceeding was depleted during the fiscal year 2018-2019. The Archdiocese continues to pay therapy fees for abuse survivors, just as it did prior to the creation of the fund, and has no intent of stopping this outreach to abuse survivors and their families.

25) Does the Archdiocese require that therapy funded by the Archdiocese take place with particular approved therapists, or are survivors free to obtain their own therapist and follow their therapist’s recommendations for an appropriate treatment plan?

Survivors are free to choose their own therapist but the person must be qualified. The therapist’s credentials and licensing are reviewed by an outside expert. Anyone seeking payment for therapy must have their therapist submit a treatment plan to this same outside expert.

26) Does the Archdiocese require any type of report from therapists to whom the Archdiocese has provided payment?

The Archdiocese neither asks for nor receives reports about the content of the therapy. Updated treatment plans are required at the direction of the outside expert.

Legislative Policy

27) Does the Archdiocese support Wisconsin Senate Bill 381, which would eliminate the civil statute of limitations in the state of Wisconsin and open a 3-year revival window for claims against perpetrators, government, and private organizations, including Catholic dioceses? Has the Wisconsin Catholic Conference been involved in any lobbying for or against this bill?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee does not have a position on this bill at this time. In the past, the Archdiocese has supported statute of limitations reform but opposed any revival or “look-back” window for past claims.

28) Does the Archdiocese support an Attorney General investigation into clergy sexual abuse and the handling of that abuse in the state of Wisconsin?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee would be opposed to an Attorney General investigation in the state of Wisconsin, because it is not clear what such an investigation would accomplish, as well as because of the expense that would have to be incurred by each Arch/Diocese.

Update from Awake: Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul launched an investigation into abuse by clergy and religious leaders in April 2021. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released this statement in response and has declined to provide requested information to the investigation.

Healing Our Church

29) What support does the Archdiocese offer to family members who have been harmed by the abuse of their loved ones? Is Archbishop Listecki open to meeting with not only clergy abuse survivors but also their family members?

The Archdiocese funds therapy for family members of abuse survivors according to its therapy protocols. Archbishop Listecki has and continues to meet with abuse survivors and their families whenever requested.

30) What changes have been made to vetting processes and formation programs for seminarians in response to the issue of clergy sexual abuse?

Many changes have been made in the vetting processes and formation programs for seminarians. Information about these changes can be found on the archdiocesan website at

31) What are the continuing education requirements for clergy related to this issue?

All clergy are required to participate in Safe Environment training. There are no continuing education requirements for clergy specifically related to sexual abuse.

32) What formation are clergy, seminarians, and lay ministers given for understanding the long-term effects of trauma and best practices for trauma-informed pastoral care?

As of 7/14/20, Mr. Topczewski was checking into this information with relevant parties.

33) Will survivors of clergy abuse be part of the process of choosing the new Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese?

No. Since every abuse survivor’s experience is different, it would be difficult to have one abuse survivor represent the interests of all survivors in making such a selection. Any individual qualified to serve as Victim Assistance Coordinator is going to have the necessary experience in working with abuse survivors.

Update from Awake: Ms. Stephanie Delmore was hired as the Victim Assistance and Employee Support Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in July 2020. An interview with Ms. Delmore can found on the Awake blog.

34) What support does the Archdiocese offer to parishes, schools, or other Catholic organizations that want to address the abuse crisis but are not sure how to proceed?

The Archdiocese recommends the resource “The Wounded Body of Christ” for parishes to facilitate small-group conversation about this topic. Training was offered in May 2019 for those wishing to facilitate a group, and video of this training is available on the archdiocesan website here. The auxiliary bishops and other archdiocesan staff have also made themselves available to participate in parish-based listening sessions.

35) In September 2018, Archbishop Listecki called for Catholics who are concerned about this issue to stay and “lead within the Church.” What are some clear avenues for responding to this invitation to shared leadership? If a person is interested in helping our Archbishop address this issue in our Church, who should they contact at the Archdiocese to become involved in this work?

In his article, Archbishop Listecki talks about not leaving the Church but staying and leading within the Church. There are many ways for lay men and women to lead within the Church including, first and foremost, making the commitment to attend Mass regularly; practicing an active prayer life; volunteering at your parish; living an active Catholic lifestyle; being a Christian witness for family, friends and neighbors.  In particular, with regard to clergy abuse of minors, individuals can pray for abuse survivors; support the good and holy priests of the archdiocese; make sure your parish is adhering to the requirements of the Safe Environment program and the Code of Ethical Standards; volunteer to assist the parish’s Safe Environment Coordinator; participate or lead small prayer groups or dialog groups on this topic; become a Wounded Body of Christ facilitator. I’m sure there are more ways and talking to your pastor would be a good starting point.