CONTACT: Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259
October 20, 2008
To: Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison
From: Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director
Re: Father Gerald Vosen
I am writing to you on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy in Wisconsin and from your diocese to release the church file of Fr. Gerald Vosen.
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 If he was a member of any other profession, his license would have been revoked years ago, he would not be receiving benefits, and he could not maintain the public use of his professional title or credentials.
In Vosen’s recently published book, he attacks your integrity, impartiality and most significantly, your apostolic authority—an astonishing claim, especially given how you have permitted him to sue one of his victims in civil court (a case he nevertheless lost before a jury of his peers) and was given a full and complete hearing, with legal representation, before a lay board and clerical court. Vosen, in his book, indicates that he is in some kind of regular and presumably pastoral contact with parishioners from past assignments. One can also presume that this means children and families. These individuals, especially, need to see the content and results of your many investigations. They need to see, properly redacted to protect the confidentiality of victims and witnesses, as is standard in these releases, why you are convinced that Vosen is a child molester and so dangerous that you will not permit him to practice ministry as a priest or publically present himself as a priest. But that appears to be exactly what Vosen is now doing.
Our organization has often been at odds with you and your fellow bishops on how the hierarchy has handled abusive priests. In his book, Vosen claims that you, SNAP, jurors, canon law judges, and lay Catholics on your review board are in some kind of “allegiance” against him. This appears to be the one truthful statement in his book, except that we are not in an allegiance against him—a ridiculously narcissist and self-serving claim—but in an allegiance for children and against child abuse.
Perhaps, unwittingly, Fr. Vosen has brought us together for a dialogue, and to that end I ask you again, as we have several times in the past, to sit down with our organization and survivors from the Madison diocese.
SNAP Midwest Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Wisconsin Director
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is the nation’s oldest and largest self-help organization of clergy sex abuse survivors with over 8,000 members in 62 chapters (SNAPnetwork.org).