Clerical courage in Milwaukee

It has been rare, when writing about the priest sex abuse scandal, to find a member of the clergy who will publicly cut against the instincts of the clergy culture with a call for greater transparency and disclosure. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle would head the list, so would retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit. Fr. Donald Cozzens has spoken and written with great insight about the flaws of the culture that lead to such wide deception. Msgr. Kenneth Lasch in New Jersey has long been a strong and outspoken advocate for victims.

The list isn’t exhaustive. There have been others. But not many.

One of the more recent examples of courage is Fr. James Connell of Sheboygan, Wisc., who earlier this year publicly criticized bishops in Wisconsin for not living up to the mandates of the charter the bishops passed during their 2002 meeting in Dallas. I wrote about him in July.

Since then he has become a member of a group of priests and others who hold monthly vigils for victims of abuse. Most recently Connell, a vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, joined, uninvited, a demonstration by members of SNAP. The group is asking a court to deny a request by the archdiocese to seal testimony of Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba in a sex abuse case. “I am absolutely convinced that we need the truth,” Connell declared. “Justice requires that the truth be known.”

It is a welcome, unambiguous and highly unusual display of courage. Read more about the event by Marie Rohde, a long time religion reporter and writer in Milwaukee.

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