Published Wednesday, May 30, 2007 GROUP TARGETS ACTIONS of BISHOP BRUSKEWITZ BY ASHLEY HASSEBROEK, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
More than 1,000 Catholics from all corners of the country have signed a petition protesting Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz's actions against members of the Lincoln-based Call to Action Nebraska.
The petition also included criticism of his refusal to participate in the annual nationwide audit to determine whether churches are compliant with church policies regarding sex abuse. It will be delivered to the Lincoln Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church on Friday.
"We are not happy with the way Bishop Bruskewitz has been handling things in the diocese and wanted to draw attention to that," said Rachel Pokora, president of Call to Action Nebraska.
Bruskewitz was on retreat this week, and Lincoln Diocese Chancellor Mark Huber declined to comment.
The delivery of the petition will be followed by a prayer service for renewal among Call to Action members. It comes shortly after the Lincoln Diocese refused for the third consecutive year to participate in the sex abuse audit administered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The audits began after the church established child protection programs in 2002 in the wake of a sex abuse scandal.
Though the Lincoln Diocese participated in the organization's first audit in 2003, it has not participated since and was the only diocese in the country to decline participation in the most recent audit.
"We find this to be very disappointing because we feel the children of Lincoln and the diocese are at risk," said Nicole Sotelo, spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Call to Action U.S.A.
In addition to his refusal to comply with the audit, the petition criticizes Bruskewitz's refusal to allow girls to serve at the altar and his 1996 excommunication of Call to Action Nebraska members.
The thrust of the petition, however, focused on the audit.
A spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Lincoln Diocese's lack of participation in the audit does not mean it isn't adhering to church policies regarding sexual abuse.
"The clergy sexual abuse crisis is a serious issue for all the bishops, and I can't see any bishop not doing all they can to ensure children are safe in their diocese," said Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection, which administers the audit.
In a written statement, Bruskewitz affirmed that his diocese is operating in full compliance with all civil and church laws concerning the abuse of minors.
The church's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires dioceses to have a victim-assistance coordinator and a review board. The charter also requires the dioceses to report allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest, among other requirements, Kettelkamp said.
"The Catholic Church teaches that all homosexual acts and any sexual abuse of minors or others are mortal sins," Bruskewitz said in the statement. "Such sins and heinous crimes should be appropriately punished by the authorities of the church and the state."
Kettelkamp said she would like the Lincoln Diocese to participate in the audit.
However, she said, "he has the right to say no. I don't want people to think just because he doesn't get audited that children are at risk."
For more information on the Call to Action event, e-mail Pokora at rpokora@NebrWesleyan.edu.
This report includes material from the Associated Press
If a Bishop Brusckewitz were able to evoke secular as well as sectarian punishments for citizens who associated with organizations not to his liking could state inquisition really be that far off? Is it really out of the question to question whether those who would seek to avoid accountability from their congregants would similarly seek a government that does the same to its citizens? And most of all, is it really wise to take the advice of some and cease speaking out in support of keeping church and state separate?
But now the problem is not only that of using excommunication as a means to stifle dissent. The imperious Bishop Bruskewitz now displays the unwillingness to be held accountable by submitting to a sex abuse audit being conducted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
By and large, religious leaders are either an unelected hierarchy or elected, but only accountable to the members of their specific denomination. If government is ever allowed to become the enforcement arm of any one faith, one of liberal democracy's most cherished institutions, leadership accountability, goes right out the window.
Bishop Bruskewitz's reprehensible behavior is all the proof we need.