Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Live Blogging Archbishop Listecki

From Marquette Law School.

Introduction from Mike Gousha. Nice round of applause.

Gousha: What is it like to follow Dolan?

Listecki: Listecki talks about how outgoing and friendly Dolan was. He liked to laugh a lot, had a sense of joy.

Dolan "Has at least one big belly laugh every day."

Gousha: Are you similar to Dolan?

Listecki: Similar in many ways. Difference in training. Difference in way we come at things.

Listecki was trained in civil law, which is its own "language." Listecki never intended to go into legal practice.

Gousha: You've been called the "law and order bishop." Or the political bishop.

Listecki: Explains he wrote a letter about Nancy Pelosi when she just flatly misrepresented the Church's position on abortion.

But doesn't want to "stick his nose" into everything.

There is a real church teaching, and it should not be allowed to degenerate into "this is just an opinion" or "that is just an opinion."

Also supported the Bishop that took Notre Dame to task for giving honorary degree to Barack Obama.

Listecki was one of many bishops in both cases.

"For those two things I get called 'political.'"

Gousha: what about somebody who has done good work for the poor, but favors "abortion rights."

Listecki: Life is the fundamental right. It doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about the other good things somebody has done if they condone abortion.

Gousha: So you aren't going out looking for a fight. But then why don't all bishops take such positions?

Listecki: Differences in personality.

Gousha: How do you find Milwaukee?

Listecki: Lots of resources and lots of development. The city a "great gift." Talks of arts. Lots of diversity. We still have people coming over as the first generation from Europe.

Gousha: What are the challenges?

Listecki: For any bishop, it is always personnel, schools and finances. Sexual abuse a pressing issue that always has to be addressed. Have to be sure that never, ever happens again.

Then the issue is healing. Have to deal with the emotional aspect.

Gousha: Don't unresolved sexual abuse law suits affect the well-being of the Archdiocese?

Listecki: Yes they do.

Gousha: Is bankruptcy "on the table."

Listecki: Yes, de facto it is something you might have to do.

Listecki: All cases must be reported, and Listicki is obligated to remove the priest immediately, if the charge is "credible." That's by charter.

Other issue: older cases. Beyond statue of limitations, but we will do what we can.

Third case: Adult complains about sexual abuse. Listicki will respect confidentiality if asked. Adult situation different from minor situation. Minor abuse always reported.

Gousha: Police Chief said Listecki's statements were untrue.

Listecki: Question was asked whether archbishop would report sexual abuse of minors. Insists he has a legal obligation to do that. Chief was not there. FBI looked at policy, prosecutors looked at policy, and passed it.

Gousha: Claim that LaCrosse archdiocese sided against victims of sex abuse much less than the national average.


Listecki: Claims that the numbers went back way before he took over, and his board (which made the decisions) acted with professionalism.

Will meet with any individual victim of abuse, but doesn't believe in politicizing issue (a swipe at activist group SNAP).

Gousha: How important education?

Listecki: We have to do our best to make Catholic education accessible and affordable. Education a way out of poverty. Especially Catholic education [Ed. a well-deserved swipe at public schools.]

Gousha: What do you do to reach younger people? What about "social media," for example?

Listecki: First, talk to younger people. Listecki can't text, "my fingers are too fat."

But regardless of the technology, "face to face contact is the most important."

Audience Question: What about the outlook for vocations?

Listecki: Pointed out that in LaCrosse, the archdiocese was heavily dependent on foreign priests. Claims to have changed that.

Says the Church has too long been in "containment mode." Didn't challenge people. Believes "the vocations are there" is people are challenged to consider them.

He notes that in Milwaukee, under Dolan, men going into the priesthood have increased from one per year to five or six.

Audience Question: What about Catholic kids in public schools?

Listecki: Talks about the need to convince parents that the sacrifice of paying for a Catholic school is worth it.

He sometimes hears Catholic educators, asked to explain why their schools are special, say "we teach values." He thinks that a pretty lame reply, and that it needs to go way beyond that.

Audience Question: What about the vocation of the Catholic lawyer?

Listecki: Says it's a "noble vocation." Law is a language to itself, and it's worth learning the language.

But there is a potential ethical problem: a lawyer must be willing to represent "both sides" in a case -- or more properly, either side. How is this resolved? By a "commitment to the ethics of the profession?"

Audience Question: What about the Latin Mass?

Listecki: Thinks it's fine for people who prefer that mode of spiritual expression. Cites the Pope on this. Doesn't think there will be any stampede of Catholics to the Latin Mass, but there is nothing wrong with having it available.

Audience Question: Priesthood vs. lay roles in church

Listecki: He certainly doesn't propose anything radical, but he applauds the revival of the role of deacon, which languished for centuries.

Mentions something called Mission 21.

He tells of how he wanted to be a priest from age two and a half or three years old. (He doesn't actually remember, but was told this by his parents.)

Mentions that you hear stories of parents forcing a young man into the priesthood, but this was not the case with him. One parent wanted him to be a doctor, and the other a lawyer. He never remembers wanting to be anything but a priest. But notes that "God always gets the last laugh," since he is now an Archbishop, and can't function as a simple parish priest.

Winding Up

Listecki gets a good round of applause at the end.

As the crowd leaves, he has an impromptu press conference with four of the local TV stations (Channels 4, 6, 12 and 58) and the Journal-Sentinel. The questioning is respectful but pointed, since Listecki was involved in some controversy in LaCrosse on the issue of priestly sexual abuse.

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