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What Archbishop Listecki Said Today About the Abuse Crisis

Today, Archbishop Jerome Listecki announced the new name of what was previously the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center in Milwaukee. Beginning today, this building will be called “Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center.” Listecki announced the change with a brief statement and prayer service in front of the newly unveiled sign. After the prayer, the Archbishop answered a few questions from reporters. A few local news articles (here and here) and the Archdiocesan Facebook page have shared brief quotes from the question and answer period, but I thought it would be helpful to share the full text of Archbishop Listecki’s responses.


This is transcribed from TMJ4's video of the event. (Please note that a few of the questions were hard to hear on the video, but I did my best!)


Reporter: Archbishop, we went through the bankruptcy; we’ve settled with some of the victims. Where do we go from here?


Archbishop Listecki: We’re looking really to restore trust, and that’s a long process. When you violate a relationship and destroy that trust, what it takes is a constant reaffirmation of your willingness to open up for reconciliation and the seeking of forgiveness. In that sense, I continue to offer my apologies to those who have been abused. I have to do that, and I have to say it again and again and again. Because it’s important for we, as a church, to let those abuse survivors know that that’s not what Christ would have wanted. Therefore, this is a moment in that process. If it just brings consolation to one abuse survivor, then basically the sign and symbol is worth it.


What about the District Attorney saying that he would support a statewide investigation? Any thoughts on that?


I would like to see what the recommendation would be, having an ability to talk to the bishops. I know that here in Milwaukee any priest that has been accused was reported to the District Attorney for analysis. Any substantiated claim against a priest is on our website. So, individuals can go on and take a look and see the names of individuals. So, in looking at that, we know that we have disclosed what would be considered, in our sense, not only crime, but sin.


What do you think about John Chisholm’s assertion that he’d like to ask the bankruptcy court to provide the names of alleged… ? (remainder of question unintelligible on video)


When you talk in terms of abusers, they are listed. They have already been disclosed. They’re on our website. Basically, we go forward and take a look at this, that’s already been accomplished. When I say examine what proposal… We have to see what proposal he is making. Because I have also an obligation to abuse survivors, who do not want names to be divulged because it endangers their own information, their reputations.


How do you respond to critics of the Church’s response, saying the Church continues to really block full recovery?


Well, you have to take a look. It’s not one monolithic agency, but individual dioceses and archdioceses all through the country. One of the things that I can say immediately, in terms of my own emotions, is I’m angry at those bishops that didn't follow the Dallas Charter.


I was there in 2002. I know the sense of the Church going forward and the commitment that those bishops made to enact the Dallas Charter. So, for those that did not do it, I feel, in my own particular way, a loss of that relationship of respect and that brotherhood which was promised. So, those are my own angers. Those angers can lead me to do things which might be justified in the neighborhood, in the streets, but I have to take that anger and I have to put it in a proper place to make sure that our community knows that we’re doing everything possible in order to bring resolution and to make sure that there’s a safeguarding of our children. For instance, in our Safe Environment program, over 85,000 people who work with children as volunteers, or those who work directly, have received safe environment training. That’s remarkable. Take a look at the response of any other institution. That’s what I mean about channeling the anger in the proper way, to make sure that we have those things that are necessary in order to safeguard our children.


As you mentioned, this is another step. But how do we attract more people back to the Catholic Church?


Not to use an old advertising adage, but “one person at a time.” You know, when that person sees the tremendous work that so many priests, sisters… And now in my position, to highlight that; as Archbishop, to remind them of all the contributions that have been made in order to create this community and the greatness of this community. Take a look at the responses in the schools, in the hospitals, in the welfare - Catholic Charities, that is done, as well as all the parishes that become community organizations for the people that are there, that bring the community together. Wonderful.

We have to remind of the history, be honest about what happened, and then basically go forward, again, one person at a time, assuring them of that.


So, you know, I say it over and over again; I say the apology over and over again. Why do I say it? Because people need to hear it and need to know that it is embedded in us, part of our DNA.


What fundamental changes do you… (unintelligible)... to restore the faith?


My first thing is: we have a charter; we have a program. But - vigilance. You know, I see problems happening when people aren’t vigilant, when they become complacent, when they think they have done everything. Then I see what happens is a laxness that creates environments that help to do the wrongs that we’re trying to eliminate. So, the first thing is vigilance.


The second is listening. One of the great things, and really what’s happened here today has come out of listening to people. I couldn’t have done this in the first year I was bishop. I didn’t own it, in the sense of - my history was not here, my commitment, the trust that people would have. Then we went into five and a half years of bankruptcy. During that time, this would have been seen as contentious, or seen as “Oh, they’re just doing it to respond to the dictates and the mandates of those who are making the accusations.” That would have been wrong. Now we’ve chosen a particular time to be able to do this, apart from any pressuring, other than the fact that we want to make a signal and a sign that we continue to offer our sense of apology and that it’s embedded in us to reach out to those abuse survivors as best we can.


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So, there you have it. Whatever you make of his comments, this was a good opportunity for the public to hear our Archbishop speak about the abuse crisis in an unscripted way. I hope you find this transcript helpful in understanding his approach.


PS: If you are happy about the name change on this building, please join the In Spirit and Truth community in sending a quick email to the Archbishop to say thank you. Details here.


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Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

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