Milwaukee Archdiocese must come clean on abuse

The Journal Times Editorial Board

The scope of the sexual abuse scandal in the Milwaukee Archdiocese continues to widen.

The newest bombshell was a partial transcript released last week by a victims? rights group, indicating former Archbishop Rembert Weakland shredded documents that implicated abusive priests. In a 1993 deposition, he acknowledged that he got rid of weekly updates on troubled clergy but kept mental notes of the important information.

Besieged by accusations that they quietly shuffled abusive priests between assignments rather than remove them from ministry, U.S. Catholic leaders have offered a common refrain: They didn?t realize how serious the problems were.

Well, it?s hard to plead ignorance over the whine of a paper shredder.

Weakland?s own misdeeds are no secret. The Church abruptly accepted his retirement in 2002 after reports surfaced that he had paid $450,000 in hush money to quiet a man with whom he had an inappropriate relationship.

Though he?s no longer in a position of power, Weakland is still subject to the law in Wisconsin. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has agreed to review the documents and decide whether charges are warranted ? or even possible, 16 years later.

The investigation is an important step to take on behalf of the dozens of victims who were abused by diocesan priests. It?s also a chance for the prosecutor?s office to step out from a long-hanging cloud of suspicion. Some victims? advocates questioned whether that county?s former district attorney, E. Michael McCann, knew of Franklyn Becker?s abusive tendencies when he advised Church leaders to temporarily remove Becker from the ministry.

Local Catholics had hoped the abuse crisis would fade by now, as the last archbishop, Timothy Dolan, made it his mission to openly address the issue. That this deposition is just now coming to light indicates the stains linger.

Dolan?s successor, Jerome Listecki, must apply the cleanser. He needs to shred the approach he maintained in La Crosse, where he urged the public to call him with sexual abuse allegations rather than police.

How many more hidden truths must be exposed before justice will be complete?