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Milwaukee administrator working to "heal" shocked faithful

Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba, administrator of the US Archdiocese of Milwaukee following Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland's resignation over admissions of a gay relationship and payment of $A799,474 "hush money", has said the primary challenge for Catholics is to experience "a sense of healing".

In an interview with the Milwaukee Catholic Herald May 25 -- two days after Paul Marcoux told Brian Ross on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" that Archbishop Weakland tried to sexually assault him in 1979 -- Bishop Sklba discussed his knowledge of the 1998 settlement between the archdiocese and Marcoux, how the settlement impacted the archdiocese's operating budget, the future of the archdiocese, and his conversations with Archbishop Weakland since news of the Marcoux incident broke.

Bishop Sklba stressed the need for accountability, truth and compassion as part of the archdiocese's healing process. "Pastorally, how do we heal ourselves and each other as a family of faith, that's the primary concern," he said.

Meanwhile the influential Chicago-based Call to Action group has cautioned against moves by the US bishops to set up a "zero tolerance" policy for responding to abuse allegations.

The group said that only those convicted of felonies should be automatically defrocked.

The distinction between felonies and misdemeanors "is an objective standard that has worked well in the legal system for over 200 years," said Linda Pieczynski, a former Illinois prosecutor who belongs to Call to Action.

With sexual misdemeanors, the group said, a priest should serve any criminal sentence and undergo therapy, after which an independent church review board would decide if he should be reassigned to active ministry. If the priest were reassigned, the church would publicise his history.

The group also said the bishops should require prompt reporting of allegations to police; immediate suspension of accused priests; review boards in each diocese and a separate, national review board; and full disclosure of the names of all perpetrators, past and present.

Archbishop Weakland denies sexual abuse allegation (Milwaukee Catholic Herald)
Call to Action

CNS/Boston Globe

31 May 2002