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Calls for diocese of La Crosse to change abuse reporting procedure

November 16, 2011

The following story aired on Wisconsin Public Radio on November 15, 2011.

By: Maureen McCollum

In light of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, some people are calling on the Catholic Church to change the way it reports abuse in parts of Wisconsin.

The Diocese of La Crosse’s Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedure states that any sexual abuse allegations from a minor involving priests or deacons should be immediately reported to the bishop.

But some say that’s not enough. John Pilmaier is the Wisconsin Director for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, “The Catholic church has a history of covering up these crimes. So, why someone would make a report to an organization that has historically tried to conceal these crimes and subsequently cover them up, just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Pilmaier says abuse victims or witnesses should contact law enforcement first. He says more people are doing that. For example, two priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee were recently removed from their positions after people contacted law enforcement.

Although it’s not stated in its official policy, the Diocese of La Crosse’s website states that, “individuals are also encouraged to take their reports directly to civil authorities.” A Diocese spokesman says people can report crimes to whomever they feel comfortable with and says the Diocese does report abuse to authorities.

Pilmaier says with the Penn State scandal making headlines, he hopes more people question why clergy are held to different standards regarding abuse. Under Wisconsin law, a clergy member is not required to report child abuse to law enforcement if the information is confidentially received.

Audio Link: Call for Diocese of La Crosse to Change Abuse Reporting Procedure

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