Fr. James Connell is a Milwaukee archdiocesan priest who has been questioning whether U.S. dioceses are using improper standards of proof when they investigate child sex abuse claims against priest or if diocese are playing loose with the rules because no one is holding them accountable.
I wrote a story about Connell in July: Critical question leads priest to challenge lax abuse policies.
Connell believes that when Raymond Burke was bishop of LaCrosse, Wis., -- he is now prefect of the Vatican's highest tribunal, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, and today named a cardinal-disgnate -- he wrote guidelines that raised the standard of proof needed to remove from ministry a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor.
Burke's guidelines endanger children, Connell has charged.
In an e-mail message to me this morning, Connell called Burke's appointment as cardinal "unfortunate and disconcerting."
Here is the message Connell sent me this morning:
Cardinal-designate Burke has demonstrated his disregard for provisions of the Dallas Charter that was established by the Catholic Bishops of the United States in 2002 to better protect the children and young people of the Church.
Indeed in 2003, while serving as the Bishop of La Crosse, the then Bishop Burke initiated a standard of proof norm governing the diocesan child sexual abuse review board that is contrary to the law of the Catholic Church, with the result that an inappropriate burden of proof is placed on those who present an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against a priest. Consequently, children in that diocese could be at risk today.
This incorrect standard of proof norm continues to be in force today and is posted on the Diocese of La Crosse website. http://www.dioceseoflacrosse.com/Home/Offices%20and%20Ministries/Youth%20Ministry/Main/Safe%20Environment%20Website/Green%20Book.htm
A thorough explanation of the situation regarding the standard of proof required of the diocesan review board of the Diocese of La Crosse is presented in my Open Letter that was released last June. http://www.chnonline.org/news/local/9628-fr-connells-letter-and-addendum.html
That Cardinal-designate Burke, the chief justice of the supreme court of the Catholic Church, can disregard church law and leave children at risk is bad enough. But that he would be named a Cardinal is most unfortunate and disconcerting, and draws into question the sincerity of Pope Benedict XVI in his outreach to all who are affected by the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
Yet, we must keep strong in our faith. So, let us continue to pray for all people who suffer in any way because of sexual abuse by priests.