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Archdiocese of Milwaukee's central office changes name in light of sex abuse claims

Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 20:51:10-04

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee's central office on South Lake Drive in St. Francis is now called the "Mary Mother of the Church" Pastoral Center. A temporary sign was put up Friday, featuring the new name and a replica of part of a painting that can be found at the Vatican.

This change was in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

The former name and sign - Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center - was taken down earlier in the week. Former Archbishop of Milwaukee, William Cousins, helped cover-up clergy sex abuse between 1958 and 1977.

Current Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki says the name change is symbolic of a new beginning.

"We're looking really to restore trust, and that's a long process," he said. "If we can help one abuse survivor by taking down and replacing that sign, then it's worth it. We will continue to apologize and try to right the wrongs that were committed."

Clergy abuse survivor turned activist, Peter Isley, says there needs to be more action.

"You've got a torrent of investigations now happening in more than 15 states and the Department of Justice," he said. "That's why we need a bigger statewide investigation here in Wisconsin.'

Isley is pushing for the release of info on other alleged offenders, that he says is included in sealed bankruptcy files from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

"The Wisconsin Attorney General has to open up an investigation," he said. "Victims and whistle blowers have to be able to contact his office. Then, he has to let the community and state know what has happened here. The priests that have acted inappropriately, and the bishops who covered it up."

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul did not return our calls for comment on this. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has called for a statewide investigation, and has said he would consider seeking access to the names under seal in the bankruptcy.

Archbishop Listecki said he'll continue to do whatever is necessary to repair trust, but believes the investigation was complete. He's focused on moving the community forward.

"Any priest who's been accused, was reported immediately to the District Attorney," Listecki said. "And any substantiated claim against a priest can be found on our website."

Listecki also shared his own frustration.

"I feel, in my own particular way, a loss of that relationship of respect and brotherhood which was promised," he said. "That anger could lead me to want to do things that are justified in the 'street', but I have to take that anger and put it in a proper place to make sure our community knows we're doing everything possible to bring a resolution and safe guard children."

Listecki says the "Safe Environment Program" is part of that effort. So far it's trained 85,000 people - anyone who works with children in the local Catholic community - at schools, churches, and events.