Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director
Good News. Bad News.
Step forward. Step back.
While Pope Francis, perestroika fashion, continues to clear out the hardliners from Vatican positions of authority, like the notorious vestment obsessed Raymond Burke (from La Crosse, Wisconsin), on the sexual abuse front Francis made a very troubling decision today, or approved one, by appointing Green Bay’s Vicar General Fr. John Doerfler to become the new bishop for the diocese of Marquette, Michigan.
In a March 2011 deposition in the case of serial Green Bay child molester, Fr. John Feeney, Doerfler, then chancellor and Vicar General of the diocese, admitted under oath that in 2007 he deliberately and systematically destroyed nearly all records and documentation in the secret church files of at least 51 clergy reported to have sexually assaulted children. The shredding took place just after the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file fraud suits against Catholic dioceses in the state for covering up for clerics like Feeney.
When specifically asked if it bothered Doerfler that clerics who abused children were being dumped into the community without public notice, Doerfler chillingly answered: “No”.
A recent national survey found that 70 percent of American Catholics believe that addressing the sexual abuse scandal must be the top priority for the Pope, well in front of any other issue facing the church. Of course, this is particularly relevant today with the current investigation by St. Paul police of an alleged child sexual abuse report against Archbishop John Neistadt. Regardless of the outcome of the Neistadt investigation, the Minneapolis archdiocese, like so many others, continue to unravel with revelations of long standing complaints of criminal child abuse and cover up.
While Francis is showing that he is going to remove self-styled “traditionalists” like Burke from power, it is still not clear what he intends to do about removing (much less promoting) those like Doerfler who have been directly involved in the concealment of child sex crimes.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPwisconsin.com and SNAPnetwork.org.