The May 15 letter, “Bishop’s failure of leadership fails Duluth,” brought me back to where I was a few years ago. My dealings with Catholic Diocese of Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba stemmed from my brother’s abuse by a priest many years ago. Both my brother and the priest are now deceased. I tried to find out if anyone else had been abused by the same priest or had made complaints. Like the letter writer said she was, I was met with stonewalling. Bishop Sirba would not release any of the priest’s records but made sure the public was told there had been only one accusation. The diocese said, including in a News Tribune story in March 2016 (“Half a century after her brother's abuse, she takes fight to Hoyt Lakes cemetery”), that I was the only one who made a complaint.
I also asked that the headstone of this priest be removed from its position of prominence. My brother, sister, and parents are all buried in the same cemetery.
What I find frustrating and disturbing is that family members do not seem to have any recourse against a bishop or the church to obtain records or to get any sort of real help without hiring a lawyer. Bishops should order removed all plaques, headstones, and anything of praise toward offenders and allow families access to their records.
I started my search for the truth around 1958. In 2004, I felt hope for the first time to bring some justice for my brother who died a tragic death. Sixty-one years later I am no closer to ending the journey to seek the truth from the Catholic Church. The systemic coverup by the church and its leaders in the United States is shameful.
I agreed with the May 15 letter that the Diocese of Duluth under Bishop Sirba’s leadership seems “content to stumble in the dark” — a darkness of its own making.