Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

Northwoods Catholic priests address sexual abuse, Church cover-ups with parishes Submitted: 09/13/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Northwoods Catholic priests address sexual abuse, Church cover-ups with parishes
WOODRUFF, EAGLE RIVER - The leader of the American Catholic Church admits sex abuse scandals have "lacerated" the church in the United States.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo made the comment after he and other American bishops met with Pope Francis on Tuesday at the Vatican.

We've heard story after story about abuse by Catholic priests this summer. That's left Northwoods priests and parishioners with a challenge. How to talk, think, and pray about the scandals?

"It just feels like a plague in the church," said Fr. Aaron Devett, the priest at Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff.


Devett has been following the stories closely. He's originally from Pennsylvania, and last month, a grand jury report found more than 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children over a 70-year span in that state. The church worked to cover it up.

That report came after Archbishop Theodore McCarrick resigned, accused of molesting teenagers and seminarians.

"The more I read, it came as a sick feeling in my stomach," Devett said. "I absolutely knew I would have to talk about it. But, also, I have talked about it."

He also talked to his parish about sexual abuse in 2016, after a different grand jury report found widespread sexual abuse and a cover-up in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese of Pennsylvania.

That's the diocese in which Devett grew up.

"I read that report, knowing names, and knowing that there would have been victims I knew whose names were not there," he said.

This time, Devett preached a message of deepening faith in Jesus, even when parts of the Catholic institution fail.

He's shared the letters of the Most Reverend James Powers, the Bishop of Superior, the diocese covering the Northwoods.

In an August 31 letter, Powers offered prayers, support, and apologies to victims. He also wrote he's not aware of any currently-serving priests or parish staff in the Diocese known or rumored to be abusers.

"I want to ensure that our Church protects not only our children, but everyone from abuse," Powers wrote. "As your Bishop, I promise, there will be no cover-ups in our Diocese."

In a different part of the Northwoods, Fr. Patrick McConnell is also addressing the issue head-on.

"I think people are feeling despair and fear and even kind of a spirit of betrayal," McConnell said. "I think the people really want us to be able to say, 'Hey, this is part of our reality, but it's not all of it.'"

McConnell leads parishes in Eagle River, Phelps, Land O'Lakes, Sugar Camp and Three Lakes. He's seen people turn to the Church even more.

McConnell tells them of an idea by Saint John Bosco, who saw the Church as a boat.

"The boat will sometimes take the wrong direction, sometimes make some errors in where it's going, but it's always drawing towards this destination," McConnell said.

At Holy Family, Devett hopes the Church corrects more than just its issues with sexual abuse.

He hopes it corrects something he sees as even broader, the abuse of conscience.

"If we just think this problem is about sexual abuse…we're missing a huge part of the problem because it was the rest of the problem that allowed that to happen," Devett said. "They're playing with and manipulating and abusing an individual's sense of right at wrong."

Devett's message to Catholics is even as the Church struggles with institutional challenges, faith marches on.

"I'm not walking away," he said. "Please don't walk out. Walk on with me."

The Diocese of Superior requires adults in its parishes to take safe environment training before working with children. It also encourages children to take their own version of the training.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Most Eagle River Elementary students can take full advantage of their recess. But for Preston Brooks, it can be a little more challenging.

"When we have a lot of snow in the winter, we can't get his chair out here," said Eagle River Elementary Principal Don Anderson. 

+ Read More

Play Video

ANTIGO - A sandbag can serve as a cheap, easy tool to stop floodwater from reaching homes, businesses, and other buildings. In Antigo, city workers have seen their fair share of sandbags lately. The city made a thousand of them. It's something workers do every year, but hope to never use them.

"Every melting season," said Antigo Public Works Project Manager Charlie Brinkmeier. "We never know, the weather changes day to day."

Since the flooding that took place in 2004, the city of Antigo has been doing its best to stay prepared.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - The first day of spring on Tuesday greeted us with snow and cold, but a handful of people across Rhinelander did their best to deliver some warm feelings.

Hometown Chiropractic employees stood outside the Rhinelander District Library starting at 12:30 p.m. with motivational signs.  This is the third year the chiropractic office decided to do "Sunshine on the Street."

It was a simple half-hour commitment to spread joy.

+ Read More

ST. GERMAIN - One person died in a snowmobile crash Wednesday night in St. Germain. 

The Vilas County Sheriff's Office got a call about a snowmobile accident on Found Lake Road, which is about a mile north of the town itself, around 7 p.m.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Oneida County Supervisor Bob Mott felt sadness as he toured the Doctors Foster and Smith property in Rhinelander on Feb. 22.  Mott knew he couldn't save the nearly 300 jobs that are disappearing after Petco announced in January it was closing most of the facility.

However, Mott is now pushing the county to look at a new option for the buildings and land that could generate money and create jobs.

At Tuesday's county board meeting, Mott submitted a resolution that would form a committee to look at Oneida County buying the property from Petco.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - By landing in New Zealand last week, Rhinelander's Darlene Machtan and her husband checked off another continent in their world travels. They landed and were confronted by huge national news.

"It's all people are talking about," Machtan said in a FaceTime interview.

Last Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand, a white supremacist started shooting at two mosques in a terrorist attack, killing 50 people.

Most years, the entire country has fewer than ten homicides with guns.

+ Read More

Play Video

MERRILL - Dozens of people in Merrill considered who is representing them in city government. A group is pushing to recall five of the city's eight representatives and held a rally Tuesday night to make their case to their fellow taxpayers. 

"It's now or never," said LaDonna Fermanich, one of the rally organizers.

The Recall Rally was held at Les and Jim's Lincoln Lanes less than a mile away from Merrill City Hall, where a common council meeting was taking place at the same time.

"This is nothing personal for the alderman. We believe you're all of good character," said Steve Sabatke, addressing the council. Sabatke plans to run for Merrill's 8th district seat.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: