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Bishop Bruskewitz on the Diocese of Lincoln

January 27th, 2012, Promulgated by Mike

In another 8 weeks Fabian Bruskewitz will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln.  With that milestone rapidly approaching, His Excellency recently gave an interview to Jim Graves of the National Catholic Register.

Tell me about the Diocese of Lincoln.

It is a stable and wonderful diocese. Much of it is made up of small towns and rural areas, although Lincoln is the state capital and has a mix of businesses and the University of Nebraska.

Thank God, we have no diocesan debts, nor have we had problems with lawsuits with which other dioceses have struggled. We have a splendid clergy, and our religious life is flourishing.  We have had many vocations, more than is adequate for a diocese of our size. In the last 20 years, I’ve ordained 67 priests for Lincoln and another 20 or 30 for other dioceses or religious orders.

We have 38 seminarians studying for the priesthood. I’ve had the joy of constructing St. Gregory the Great Seminary, a college seminary, which opened 12 years ago. It instructs not only our students, but those from six other dioceses.

I invited and was pleased to welcome the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a community of apostolic life dedicated to preserving the memory and practice of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. Our diocese is home to the Fraternity’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary. They have more young men applying to be seminarians than there is space available for them.

I also invited and was pleased to welcome a community of cloistered Carmelite sisters who pray for us constantly. We also have the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters who pray constantly before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The sisters’ prayers have brought us many spiritual blessings.

We have a well-educated and zealous laity, and I’ve had the pleasure to form five new parishes and four new schools to serve them.

Our little diocese on the plains is doing well.

While there is much more here, there are a few topics that did not get covered in the interview. For instance,

  • According to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory, the Diocese of Lincoln has 133 parishes, every one of which is under the direct control of a priest. (83 parishes are led by on-site pastors while the remaining 50 are administered by priests.)
  • The same source reports that the diocese has precisely 2 lay ministers.
  • “Bishop Bruskewitz fully expects that the priests of the Diocese of Lincoln faithfully follow the rubrics and words of the Roman Missal and does not tolerate liturgical ‘creativity'” (source here).
  • Diocesan weekend Mass attendance was last reported to be 60%.

Bishop Bruskewitz turned 75 in September of 2010. In doesn’t appear that Pope Benedict is in any hurry to name a successor.

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11 Responses to “Bishop Bruskewitz on the Diocese of Lincoln”

  1. avatar Scott W. says:

    We have 38 seminarians studying for the priesthood.

    Just think how much higher that number would be if the bishop appointed female lay administrators….oh wait.

  2. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    But here, ideology is more important. It is better there be only a few heretetical priests than a diocese filled with holy priests.

    The fewer the priests, then the call for married and women priests might grow.

    I don’t see much in this diocese that differs from the “Culture of Death”. Perhaps we can now refer to the DOR as the “Diocese of Death”!

  3. avatar Jim says:

    It is good to hear that some dioceses are flourishing! It make me pine for a better situation in Rochester, where we are basking in progressive liberalism! Pope Benedict, please send us a man like Bishop Bruskewitz!

  4. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    The Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska has had three cases of priests being sex offenders in the current sex offender crisis in the Church. However Bishop Bruskewitz has refused to cooperate with his fellow bishops in adopting church guidelines on handling sex abuse cases involving the clergy.

    My concern is that the diocesan seminary is full of men who are under the care of a bishop who does not conform or concur with the guidelines of the NCCB on sex abuse issues.

    He also does not present a very good model of episcopal collegiality as presented by the council, Vatican II

  5. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    On a more positive side, his filling his diocese with cloistered nuns is like filling a busy store with Easter lilies!!

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Raymond F. Rice,

    The accusations against those 3 priests date back to the 1970s, 1978 and 1987, respectively, well before Bishop Bruskewitz took over in Lincoln in 1992. While it is also true that one of those 3 priests was also accused in an incident that took place in 1993, that incident occurred while he was serving as a Navy chaplain and under the authority of another bishop.

    Bishop Bruskewitz has expressed some real concerns about the National Review Board and its leadership. From CatholicCulture.org

    Bishop Bruskewitz shoots back at National Review Board

    April 2, 2006

    Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, has responded sharply to criticism from the US bishops’ National Review Board about his refusal to cooperate with the Board’s “audit” of diocesan plans for implementing national guidelines on sex-abuse programs.

    Bishop Bruskewitz released this statement on March 31:

    Some woman named Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, who is the Chair of something called “A National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People”, has said that her Board “calls for strong fraternal correction of the Diocese of Lincoln.” The Diocese of Lincoln has nothing to be corrected for, since the Diocese of Lincoln is and has always been in full compliance with all laws of the Catholic Church and with all civil laws. Furthermore, Ewers and her Board have no authority in the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize them as having any significance.

    It is well known that some of the members of Ewers’ Board are ardent advocates of partial birth abortion, other abortions, human cloning, and other moral errors. It is understandable then how such persons could dislike the Diocese of Lincoln, which upholds the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.

    The words attributed to Ewers seem to confirm the suspicion that the members of her Board are unfamiliar with Catholic teachings, Catholic ecclesiology, and even the basic rudiments of the Catholic Catechism. Rather than concerning themselves with the Diocese of Lincoln about which they appear completely ignorant, Ewers and her colleagues would occupy themselves in a better way by learning something about the Catholic religion and the traditions and doctrines and laws of the Catholic Church.

    The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization.

    Another source reports as follows …

    In response to a question by the Journal Star, Bruskewitz explained the policies and procedures in the Lincoln Diocese to protect children and respond to any allegations of abuse by clergy, teachers, other staff or volunteers.

    “The Diocese of Lincoln has in place a very strong program of instruction and training for all priests, religious and lay people in the diocese who are in any way, directly or indirectly, connected with children and youth. There are very careful and thorough background checks done for all people who are employed by the diocese, or by institutions, parishes or agencies which have any connection whatever with the diocese. All people, including all children and youth, are regularly instructed to report any incidents of abuse immediately to law enforcement authorities.”

    In addition, any credible allegations of abuse will be presented to the diocese’s own lay review board “and then appropriately acted upon in accordance with the canon law of the Catholic Church,” he said.

    According to an April 20 article by Tom McFeely in the National Catholic Register, the issue centers on “the question of the authority of individual bishops on the one hand and bishops’ conferences on the other.”

    Bruskewitz has questioned the existence of the National Review Board, which was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to assess individual dioceses’ compliance with national guidelines on abuse.

    “My personal experience with the Charter and the audit process has led me to conclude that it is fundamentally a costly and expensive undertaking that brings forward little result, at least as far as the Diocese of Lincoln is concerned,” Bruskewitz said. “It may be that the Charter and the audit process are useful or even necessary for other places, but neither have much relevance to the Diocese of Lincoln.”

    McFeely reported that Ewers does not dispute that Bruskewitz has authority to refuse to participate in the sexual abuse audits. Asked why she focused on Bruskewitz, whose diocese has not been embroiled in the abuse scandals, rather than calling for fraternal correction of bishops that have allowed widespread abuse, she said that “without an audit there was no ‘certitude’ that the Diocese of Lincoln wasn’t more vulnerable to the problem than Bishop Bruskewitz believes,” McFeely reported.

    Asked which members of the Review Board had advocated positions contrary to church teachings, Bruskewitz cited current board member Dr. Paul McHugh and former board member Leon Panetta.

    Panetta, who was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, supported abortion laws while a U.S. congressman. McHugh, a psychiatrist, has supported cloning human embryos to get stem cells.

    Among the national critics of the Lincoln Diocese’s refusal to participate in the audit are leaders of Call to Action, an organization calling for reforms in the Catholic Church. Bruskewitz received nationwide attention 10 years ago when he included Call to Action in a list of organizations Catholics should not join or face excommunication.

    Linda Pieczynski, media spokesperson for national Call to Action, said Bruskewitz “has defiantly refused even to self-report for the audit process with no consequences at all.” Ewers’ urging fraternal correction against Bruskewitz, she said, was “an absolutely useless gesture. It is time to ask whether the Charter for the protection of Children and Youth is living up to its promises in the real world, and not just in a report.”

    The audit found the Diocese of Chicago in full compliance, but it appears the guidelines were not followed in a recent abuse case there, Pieczynski said.

    “It is unsettling to see a Christian bishop claim that he and his diocese is above correction because he is in keeping with the letter of the civil and ecclesiastical law,” said Jim McShane, a local member of Call to Action.

    McShane agreed that the National Review Board and bishops have “no canonical authority to compel anything,” but they do have moral authority. The bishops set up the review board to restore confidence in their care for young people after the sex abuse scandal, he said. For Bruskewitz to reject the process “can only undermine further the confidence the bishops are so anxious to restore,” McShane said.

    In a March 30 statement, Bruskewitz noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charter on sex abuse is “only an advisory document” and participation is optional. “The Diocese of Lincoln participated fully in the initial audit conducted by the USCCB and has exercised its right to refrain from further participation in an audit,” he said.

    He reiterated that the Lincoln diocese is in full compliance with all civil and church laws and has implemented all norms issued by the Vatican for prevention of abuse.

    “The Diocese of Lincoln certainly is concerned with the protection of children and has taken what it believes to be appropriate steps in this area,” the bishop said.

    With regard to McShane’s assertion that “The bishops set up the review board to restore confidence in their care for young people,” he is only telling half the story, as Bishop Bruskewitz seems well aware. The bishops’ other reason was to get the focus off themselves and their collective malfeasance in moving homosexual abuser priests from parish to parish and even diocese to diocese.

    Along this line Les Femmes – The Truth reports,

    The Burning Question

    Ever since the clerical sex scandals became national news in 2002, “gay activists” have attempted to deflect the sex-abuse issue away from homosexual priests and towards normal families. Dr. Brian Clowes, Director of Research and Training at Human Life International, has co-authored with David Sonnier an extraordinary analysis of the pro-homosexual offensive in the May 2005 issue of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (the article can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.hli.org). [The article is no longer on the HLI site but can be found here. -Mike] Focusing on the relationship of homosexuality and child abuse in the priesthood, which was factually demonstrated in the John Jay Report, Dr. Clowes observes:

    “During the current crisis, homosexual activists within and outside the Catholic Church have done everything they could to divert attention away from even the possibility that there may be a higher percentage of homosexuals among the priesthood than in the general public, and that this may be the root of the problem of child sexual molestation within the Church. It is particularly the link between homosexuality and child molestation that they seek to deny.”

    One wonders if Dr. Clowes is describing the homosexual activist left, or the bishops who wrote the charter in Dallas; where Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln could not even find a second for his motion to study the role of homosexuality and theological dissent in the clerical sex-abuse crisis.

    There is far more to this story than one seemingly obstinate bishop.

  7. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I wish to write strongly in favor of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, and to acclaim his heroic courage in standing up not only to his fellow bishops, but in the faithfulness to his own responsibilities. On his behalf I offer the very meaningful words of Josef Cardinal Ratzinger in The Ratzinger Report, who clearly cautioned against a group of bishops acting like some kind of senate trying to bind their colleagues. The episcopacy is not a rule of majority, nor (fortunately) to be tested under the principles of American government’s ayes and nays.

    I commend to you the entire text for your careful reading, but the following quotes are excerpts from pages 59-63, and should be understood as a serious warning, not simply as a magisterial thesis.

    “… the role of bishops … risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.”

    …the new Code of Canon Law … prescribes the extent of the authority of the conferences, which cannot validly act “in the name of all the bishops unless each and every bishop has given his consent, unless it concerns cases in which the common law prescribes it or a special mandate of the Apostolic See … determines it.” (Canon 455). “The collective, therefore, does not substitute for the persons of the bishops who … are the authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the faithful entrusted to their care.” (Canon 753).

    “No episcopal conference … has a teaching mission; its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops. … it is a matter of safeguarding the very nature of the Catholic Church, which is based on an episcopal structure and not on a kind of federation of national churches. The national level is not an ecclesial dimension. It happens that with some bishops there is a certain lack of a sense of individual responsibility, and the delegation of his inalienable powers as shepherd and teacher to the structures of the local conference leads to letting what should remain very personal lapse into anonymity. The group of bishops united in the conferences depends in their decisions upon other groups, upon commissions that have been established to prepare draft proposals. It happens then that the search for agreement between the different tendencies and the effort at mediation often yield flattened documents in which decisive positions (where they might be necessary) are weakened.”

    [Cardinal Ratzinger] recalls an episcopal conference that had been held in [Germany] in the thirties: “Well, the really powerful documents against National Socialism were those that came from individual courageous bishops. The documents of the conference, on the contrary, were often rather wan and too weak with respect to what the tragedy called for…”.

    Cardinal Ratzinger points out that even at Vatican II only 10% of the bishops spoke; the other 90% listened and voted. He continues: “it is obvious that truth cannot be created through ballots. … I know bishops who privately confess that they would have decided differently than they did at a conference if they had had to decide by themselves.”

    So, I believe that Bishop Bruskewitz’s willingness to stand alone should not be viewed as the position of a disagreeable curmudgeon, but rather of heroic proportions in preventing the US Council of Catholic Bishops from heading down a truly wrong road. God bless him!

    One only has to look at the lack of strong statements from the USCCB over decades, in multiple life matters, and its diluting of teachings against the sins of abortion, euthanasia, contraception and homosexual life style, with silence or social engineering messages, to understand that the ‘group’ (until quite recently) has only yielded ground to the secular. Now, perhaps at long last, some leaders there are being shamed into taking positions which they should long ago have taken, but again it is from group pressure (even from the laity) one senses, rather than prompted principally by well-formed individual, courageous consciences.

  8. avatar Susan of Corning says:

    New parishes? New schools? The mind reels.

  9. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    From the looks of the very articulate but nuclear response to my comments (LOL), it appears that I will be doing some research concerning my logic. I had assumed that if all the American bishops, for the most part, had been appointed by BJPII, they would for the most part conform to the teachings and mentality of that pope. Evidently more than just the Atlantic Ocean separates our hierarchy from the Vatican.

    Years ago, When I was in a Jesuit school, we took provincial exams in lieu of regents exams because the Jesuit exams were of a higher caliber. I am surmising from the comments that Bishop Bruskewitz has a higher caliber plan for dealing with sexual abuse issues than the NCCB. Correct me if I am wrong.

  10. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Hello Raymond,

    Yes, I think more research could be very helpful to you on this issue. The world is so changed from the days when a bishop’s letter read at Mass was people’s almost only connection to the Holy Father’s teaching. Today, with the widespread availabilty of information, many parishioners can be more up-to-date and informed on a variety of events than their bishops or pastors. I appreciate that makes it challenging for bishops, but it is one of the best reasons for a bishop to be completely orthodox. In the long run, this will be very good for the church, but in the short run there can be much turmoil. And the false idea that a bishop can hide away in a “group” of bishops and blame his failures on consensus, only illustrates how egregious is the failure of a bishop to fully embrace his role and responsibilities.

    In this horrible situation of pedophilic (principally homosexual) abuse by priests, there is much need for sharing among bishops about what works and what doesn’t, but not to the point of violating the rights and obligations of individual bishops. It appears the USCCB was way off base in this matter. Moreover, I cannot answer your question about how Bishop Bruskewitz addresses the issue, as it is his business and he is not obligated to publicize or limit himself in his rights and practice as bishop. But I will say this: If the Diocese of Rochester’s ‘safe environment’ programs are representative of what all the members of the USCCB agreed to (except for Bishop Bruskewitz) then almost anything else might be an improvement. So I would guess that, given how Bishop Bruskewitz excels in his faithful teaching, his program and policy in this area would excel as well.

    I took the Safe Environment course just to see if I thought it could really make a difference, and I came away feeling that it is mostly about protecting dioceses from lawsuits. I saw very little that was meaningful protection of the children. I realize the diocesan program has changed in the last year or two, but this is what I published in August 2009 about my disappointment in their course — a naive course which had been in place for a number of years. I reported on that experience and wrote at that time:

    The “Safe Environment” Course

    “Ever since the priest sexual abuse cases broke into the news in the early part of this century, efforts have abounded to “fix” part of the problem; i.e. to require diocesan employees and volunteers to take a “Safe Environment” set of courses administered by the diocese. While parents weren’t the main source of complaint or problem, they have been caught up in the bureaucracy of certification requirements.

    It piqued my interest how a course, about 7½ hours spread over three evenings, could stop sexual abuse of children. So I decided to take the course but, since I’m not trusting with things like my SSN, I figured I’d just take the course but not “register” for approval. It was an eye-opener, but not in the way you might think.

    There are three sections: sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual abuse. The course is totally silent on other forms of abuse, such as verbal abuse, bullying or emotional intimidation. As a matter of fact, one instructor tried to insist the word abuse had to apply only to sexual abuse. It is partly lecture, some handouts, and a video of lectures from a few years ago. But, there is only ONE requirement: be there! There are no tests, no grades, not even pass or fail based on anything except attendance. One person, who text-messaged under the table during much of the lecture, put in the required time and will be “approved.”

    Around this same time I took an 8 hour U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety course, so I can meet the new requirements for driving a personal watercraft. At the end of the course, there was a tough, proctored exam. No fooling. And not everybody passed. There was certainly a lot more care in making sure the Jet Ski and I are safe, than any checking on whether I learned something in the Safe Environment Course.

    Then it hit me….Safe Environment isn’t much about safety; it’s about keeping insurance rates down. But it doesn’t make the children safer. The reason I’m writing is because I think that parents especially can get lulled into a false sense of comfort that those who took the program are “safer” than those who didn’t. As I pondered the thought, I also realized that at some point in everyone’s life they could pass a background check; i.e. before their first crime. It doesn’t say anything at all about what individuals will do when they are in situations to cause danger to another. The priest sexual abuse scandal proved that conclusively.”

  11. avatar Scott W. says:

    I took the VIRTUS course as part of my requirement for teaching catechism. It was a mixed bag. On the one hand it did a decent job of explaining how sexual predators operate and what to look for; it also had continuing follow-up with required online information and quizzing. It also kicked to the curb the baloney about celibacy contributing to the desire for perverted sex. On the other hand, it went to great pains to make homosexuals disappear from the equation. It seemed to be under the assumption that us unenlightened rubes believed that only homosexuals were abusers. None of us believed that and it isn’t true, but the clear impression from the training was that homosexuality doesn’t factor in at all which is just as false especially given the fact that a full 60% of the 3000 abuse cases were between priest and post-pubescent male.

    The lesson is that an anti-abuse program is only as good as the underlying assumptions governing the content, and just because a conference green lights either because they didn’t bother to check those assumptions, or knew them and just didn’t care (I’ll be nice and assume the former), doesn’t a naughty bishop make when he says go jump in a lake.

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