Ongoing vigilance against abuse takes the form of action in diocese Print
Written by William D. Yallaly, Chancellor, Diocese of Madison   
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

Faced as we are with the ongoing specter of sin and even crime on the part of some priests, religious, and bishops of the Church, Bishop Robert Morlino has given clear direction that in the Diocese of Madison we will do all we can to continue to strengthen our efforts in the protection of children and vulnerable persons, to expand our work in oversight and transparency, and to increase our focus on rooting out sin at every level.

To that end, the following additional actions have already gotten underway in the past several months, with a great deal still to come:

• Prayer, sacrifice, reparation -- Prayer alone cannot suffice where there is clear need for concrete and decisive action. However, the grace of God is essential in achieving any good and our prayers do have an effect. The Church has been wounded through the terrible sins of her members and her ministers, and there must be spiritual as well as practical efforts made to repair the wounds.

To this end, the bishop himself has undertaken added prayer, sacrifice, and reparation for the purification of the Church and the healing of victims. He has also called for the faithful in the diocese to join with him in these prayers.

• Review of all files -- As many dioceses are now doing, the Diocese of Madison is in the process of scheduling a full, independent review of all priest personnel files. This will serve to make absolutely certain that not only have past cases been properly handled, but that historical instances of abuse are identified, even where no current victims might be known.

• Added work hours devoted to Safe Environment and Victim Assistance -- Responsibilities have been shifted among diocesan personnel and work hours have been added through the separation of the previously combined roles of “Director of Safe Environment” and “Victim Assistance Coordinator.” This separation of roles has already allowed for greater focus on both the constant improvement of safe environment processes and on caring for the needs of victims and accusers.

• Revised online systems for VIRTUS training -- All safe environment registrations and training sessions are now available online, thus allowing for parishes, schools, and their apostolates to train and update staff members and volunteers with greater ease and precision.

• Revised system for background checks -- Contracting with a new online service for criminal background checks has allowed for innovative ongoing monitoring of a national criminal database for parish and Catholic school staff members.

• Updated children’s program -- All parishes and schools have instituted a new program for the age-appropriate education of children aimed at helping young people better understand their dignity and worth as children of God and how to seek help when boundaries are violated through their relationships with trusted adults.

• Institution of programs to confront pornography in homes and families -- Working with a national initiative, a diocesan-wide effort will be undertaken in the new year to address the rampant problem of pornography, which is harming our youth and damaging marriages.

• Taking aim at all sexual misconduct -- In addition to a continued focus on the prevention and proper handling of cases of sexual abuse of minors, there are plans for an added and ongoing addressing of the issues of sexual misconduct between adults in the Church and policies for preventing and addressing sexual harassment.

• Listening and conversing -- In addition to correspondence and constructive input that has come from all parts of the diocese, Bishop Morlino has listened to both the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Priests’ Council to hear from local laity and priests on their thoughts and suggestions regarding the crisis and its impact on the local Church, and has taken part in a national symposium on Church reform in order to work with the wider Church in effecting true reform.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week to discuss what role their conference can take in addressing the ongoing issues in the Church. In addition, Pope Francis has called for heads of all bishops’ conferences to gather with him in February of 2019 to discuss a Church-wide response to these issues. The Diocese of Madison will continue to take whatever constructive input comes from these meetings, but more than this, will make every effort to ensure that matters within this local Church are well in order regardless.

Any allegation of sexual abuse should be brought to the attention of law enforcement officials. If an allegation involves a priest, deacon, or other Church personnel, regardless of when it is said to have occurred, it should also be reported to the Diocese of Madison, by way of the Sexual Misconduct Question and Reporting Line, 608-821-3162. The diocesan policies regarding sexual abuse allegations, and instructions for making a report of sexual misconduct, are available on the diocesan website (