Friday, December 12, 2008


Yesterday I blogged an article titled "Church wants Vosen book destroyed". It concerned a priest who no longer has the authority to say public or private masses, and his trial for sexual abuse that allegedly took place several years ago. The allegations were made in 2003, and the trial was placed under "Pontifical secret", whatever that is.

Brent M. King, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Madison, emailed me comparing the "Pontifical secret" to the seal of confession. So it would seem that we have another category of "secret" surrounding sexual abuse matters. I requested permission to post the email, but was denied. King did refer me to an article that he believes is a better one.

It tells us:

The news release [from the Diocese of Madison] is the latest chapter in the former St. John Vianney priest who was accused in 2003 of sexually assaulting a Janesville boy. The man, who was 26 years old when he made his accusations, said the assault happened when he was in fifth and six grades.

Vosen, 74, has maintained his innocence.

Vosen’s book, “Pick a Number: Stories of Faith” is primarily a series of short sermons with gentle and easy to understand messages.

However, one of the chapters deals with the events of 2003, when he was removed from his parish and charged with the abuse. Vosen also writes about a subsequent meeting about the matter he had with Bishop Robert Morlino....

"As Fr. Vosen knows, the entire penal trial is under Pontifical Secret and no mention of its proceedings is to be made," the news release said.

The proceedings are kept under wraps to protect the parties involved, King said.

Baptized Catholics or those who have made a profession of faith who purchase Fr. Vosen's book are at risk of participating in this breach of the Pontifical Secret," the news release said.

SNAP has waded into the inquiry. While they appear to be on the side of the bishop, they cannot defend his efforts to cover up information. A letter from Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, addressed to Bishop Morlino is contained in a wiscnews.com article about the matter. The following is taken from Isely's letter:

As you know, hundreds of files of priests determined by their bishops to have sexually abused children have been released across the United States. Some of those files have been made public by court order, others have been voluntarily released. Almost universally, the release of these documents have been the single most effective means of protecting children and the vulnerable from clergy and former clergy that have a history of child molestation.

When a teacher, psychologist, medical doctor or any other of the dozens of licensed and certified professions in the state of Wisconsin is found by his professional board to have committed ethical and especially criminal misconduct, the results of that investigation, including the revocation of his or her license, is publicized and the ruling and evidence is readily available, including being posted online by the State Department of Regulation and Licensing.

Given the recent and very public denials of criminal behavior against minors by one of your priests, Fr. Gerald Vosen, isn't it time for the diocese to follow the example of all other professions working in civil society to publish the evidence and rulings that have been concluded against Fr. Vosen? These would include the results of two church investigations and one civil jury trial. In my long experience working on the issue of clergy sexual abuse I have rarely seen a priest receive so many abundant and ample opportunities for due process. He has argued his case before a lay review board, canon law judges, and jury of his peers.

You have exercised extraordinary deference to Fr. Vosen. If he was a member of any other profession, his license would have been revoked years ago, he would not be receiving benefits, and he could not maintain the public use of his professional title or credentials.

How can court documents be put under a "Pontifical Secret" edict? How can a book given that the Index is no longer with us? If the Bishop believes there is enough credible evidence to suspend this priest, and the hearings and civil trial have also found credible evidence, why the secrecy? Who is hiding what? And what the heck is in that lone chapter of Vosen's book that has set off the alarm bells in the Madison chancery?

This fish smells five days old.

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