Church Documents Refer to Secret Archives

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reported last week that recently released Archdiocese of Milwaukee church documents refer on several occasions to a confidential file kept by the church. The documents are part of those released in a Catholic Church sex abuse lawsuit involving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Journal Sentinel report notes that the existence of the secret files appears to contradict earlier sworn testimony of former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB who had dismissed the notion of a secret archives as “antique”.
In his deposition last year, Weakland claimed “I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never seen those files, and I don’t know if the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has such things,” when asked about the existence of a secret archival file required by the Church’s Code of Canon Law.
The church documents released in Milwaukee concern correspondence between high-ranking church officials and Weakland himself concerning a priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who’d been the subject of sexual abuse allegations. According to the Sentinel the files include, “a 1996 letter from Vice Chancellor James Connell to Weakland saying he’d searched the secret archives and could find no documents pertaining to Murphy; and a 1998 decree by Canon Judge Thomas T. Brundage saying documents related to the Murphy case would be kept in the secret archives for a period dictated by canon law.”
Jerry Topczewski, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee characterized the secret archival files as merely personnel files. “When we say something creates scandal, it means taking someone away from the faith,” Topczewski said. “And secret doesn’t mean secret; it’s just another form of official file that can be kept for particular reasons.”