An advocate for victims of abuse by priests and other clergy has called on the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to censure Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz for refusing to participate in an annual audit related to sex abuse.
David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, stood outside Lincoln’s Cathedral of the Risen Christ on Thursday, flanked by two leaders of Call to Action-Nebraska, a group calling for reform and accountability in the church.
Clohessy, of St. Louis, said he was calling on America’s Catholic bishops to either make Lincoln’s bishop comply with national sex abuse policies or publicly censure him at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring retreat in Albuquerque next week.
“We’re asking for American bishops to fish or cut bait with respect to Bishop Bruskewitz,” Clohessy said. “Either persuade him to honor his pledges to promote child safety or publicly censure him.
“It’s sad and in fact reckless for Bishop Bruskewitz to essentially jeopardize kids, insult Catholics and defy the bishops by refusing to comply.”
Bruskewitz is not required to participate in the voluntary audit of compliance with policies to respond to and prevent abuse. However, he was the only bishop of a U.S. diocese to refuse to do so.
Bruskewitz has said his refusal to comply does not mean children in Lincoln are not protected.
“Contrary to some reports, the Diocese of Lincoln has programs in place for the protection of children, as do all other dioceses,” said a prepared statement from Bruskewitz’ office on Thursday. The diocese is “in complete compliance and obedience” to all civil and church laws for the protection of children, the statement said.
Anyone who knows or credibly suspects abuse of a child should report it immediately to law enforcement authorities, it said.
“If the person suspected is involved with the Catholic Church in southern Nebraska, the matter should also be reported to the chancery office of the diocese. Immediate measures will be taken in such case.”
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The statement noted that the Lincoln Diocese did participate in the initial audit in 2003.
“It was found to be a flawed process and the diocese opted, as any diocese may, not to participate in consequent audits.”
Rachel Pokora, president of Call to Action-Nebraska, agreed that Bruskewitz is not required to participate, but said, “trust in this church (nationally) has been severely compromised because bishops for years have said ‘Trust me.’ I’m not saying anything is being hidden, but we have to know to protect the children. It seems the least he could do.”
Clohessy noted that it is important not only to respond to and prevent abuse, but to encourage victims of past abuse to come forth. National statistics show about 10 percent of child abuse victims speak up, he said.
After speaking in Lincoln, he appeared at a news conference in Omaha, criticizing Archbishop Eldon Curtiss for doing “the absolute bare minimum” in responding to sex abuse claims, including a recent suit filed by a man in Oregon claiming abuse by Omaha Archdiocese priest Father Duane Lukes in 1978.
Rather than merely waiting for victims to come to them, Omaha Catholic leaders should “aggressively reach out to anyone that might have been hurt” by Lukes or any other priest, he said.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests began in 1989 and has about 8,000 members, 90 percent of whom claim abuse by Catholic priests, nuns, other religious or lay people, and 10 percent of whom claim abuse by ministers in other denominations, Clohessy said.
The organization has 72 support groups of victims of abuse nationwide, but none in Nebraska. Twenty-five to 30 members live in Nebraska, he said.
Reach Bob Reeves at 473-7212 or email@example.com