Communication Policy for Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Clergy or Other Church Personnel
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee recognizes the importance of disseminating full and accurate information to the public regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is committed to sharing information openly and willingly about sexual of abuse of minors by clergy in the Archdiocese. The communication policy for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in matters dealing with sexual abuse of minors by clergy is as follows.
- The Archbishop of Milwaukee is the official spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Communications Director serves as the main media contact and serves as spokesperson for the Archbishop and the Archdiocese on issues involving sexual abuse of a minor by clergy, when appropriate. This follows the larger archdiocesan media relations policy already in place.
- The Communications Director administers the media policy. No contact or response to media should be initiated through any other archdiocesan office. If media representatives initiate contact with archdiocesan staff, the inquiry should be referred to the Office for Communication.
- All media inquiries shall receive a response. No media outlet or representative is to be ignored.
- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is committed to transparency and openness in its communication about sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Exceptions to this policy include matters under litigation, matters currently being investigated by civil authorities, unsubstantiated allegations and information which a victim-survivor has asked the Archdiocese to keep private.
- All policies for reporting sexual abuse are written and communicated in multiple formats, including print and electronic. Policies and policy updates are distributed to all parish and school locations. Reminders about the policies in place are sent periodically throughout the calendar year.
- Annual updates about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” are widely communicated to the Faithful of southeastern Wisconsin.
- Information about how to report sexual abuse and agencies to contact if you are a victim/survivor of sexual abuse – both within the Church structure and external social service agencies -- is updated annually and distributed to parishes, schools and Catholic institutions, and posted on the archdiocesan web site.
- Annual financial data is compiled as part of the overall archdiocesan annual financial report and disseminated to parishes, schools, and the faithful through a variety of communications media, including posting to the archdiocesan web site.
- When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received about an Archdiocese of Milwaukee cleric, the following communication policy is in place.
- All cases are sent to the district attorney for review. When a case is sent to the district attorney, no public statement is made until the district attorney has decided on a course of action. We do not comment on specific cases or allegations, but rather reinforce that our policy of reporting all allegations to civil authorities is being followed.
- If criminal charges are filed against a cleric by a district attorney, this information is communicated to the parish (if the priest was assigned) at all weekend Masses and is provided to the media in written form. An electronic communication is sent to all clergy and the statement is also placed on the diocesan web site.
- If the district attorney does not pursue the case, but the archdiocese finds the report credible, the allegation proceeds to an independent investigation and the cleric is placed on temporary leave from his assignment. At that time it is stated that the cleric is on temporary leave and no reason is given for the leave. No statement is given beyond this, because at this point it is not yet deemed factual. This action lessens the challenge of “restoring a cleric’s good name” if the allegation is never substantiated.
- If after the investigation, using “preponderance of evidence” as the standard for judgment, the investigation shows that the allegation is substantiated, the case is referred to the Diocesan Review Board for its recommendation to the Archbishop regarding the cleric’s fitness for ministry. Following the Archbishop’s decision to remove a cleric from ministry, full disclosure is provided to the parish (if assigned), to all clergy, to other parishes where the cleric served, if appropriate, and to the media.
- To ensure accurate and complete information, the Vicar for Clergy, Victim Assistance Coordinator and Chancellor should review data and statements before public release.
- When a clergy offender’s name becomes public, either because of criminal charges being filed by the district attorney or after substantiation by the independent investigation, the following information will be released to the public and media, when available:
- Name, year of birth, ordination date and list of appointments.