Immaculate Deception

Some dirty little secrets followed Archbishop Raymond Burke from Wisconsin to St. Louis

Doe, who provided Riverfront Times with copies of the correspondence, says she was never evaluated for demonic possession. While Burke won't comment about the specific incident, he does say he is not opposed to the practice. "[If] I thought there was some question of a diabolical influence on the person causing the person distress, or that person had become involved or indicated to me that he or she had become involved with Satanic activity, then exorcism -- there are various rites in the Church to combat the influence of Satan and evil spirits," the archbishop says. "Those could be properly used for the spiritual good of the person."

In the coming years Burke met with Doe on multiple occasions. Their correspondence, often combative, occasionally tender, is marked by numerous letters from Doe and the occasional reply from Burke. "Over the years I have come to respect you not just as a Bishop but as a compassionate 'pastor of souls,'" Doe writes in a letter dated December 14, 2001. "When you told me you were 'sorry' that made a huge difference in my recovery. You didn't just say it once, but you said it again."

Jay Bevenour
Victims who claim they were abused by priests in his 
former diocese in La Crosse tell Riverfront 
Times they were stonewalled by Raymond Burke, 
who declined to report their allegations to local 
AP/World Wide Photos
Victims who claim they were abused by priests in his former diocese in La Crosse tell Riverfront Times they were stonewalled by Raymond Burke, who declined to report their allegations to local authorities.

This brief rapprochement accompanies a formal claim of clergy sexual abuse against Father Thomas Garthwaite. In the document, Doe requests back payment from 1966 to 2001 in the amount of $25,000 per year. In support of her claim, she cites two notes contained in her lawsuit, which she allegedly received from Garthwaite.

The first, from December 1966, reads: "Hello Baby, My number is still in the phone book -- all you need to do is dial. I'll take you up on the offer you made in the hospital. I did not at the time think [illegible] grab all that subtlety. Nothing wrong with me that a [illegible] would not cure -- yours only! I need with you a night of Love[,] Tiger."

The second note, which Doe claims is a response to a letter she'd written Garthwaite, is dated July 20, 1984, and reads: "It makes me glad that you're not so bad as you were at fifteen. You did not know at thirteen. Tiger."

In August 2002, more than seven years after Doe first approached the bishop, Burke agreed to help with her counseling costs. In a letter dated August 19 of that year, he appears to accept her claims of abuse: "As I have stated before, I am deeply sorry for any harm that has come to you from any priest, especially form [sic] the Diocese of La Crosse. I have written this to you and stated it to you personally on many occasions, and I am happy to write it once again. I have studied the documents which you have sent to me. I do not question your veracity."

Over the course of the next year, the diocese reimbursed Doe roughly $10,000, from a fund for works of charity. Garthwaite, meanwhile, remained listed as a retired priest in good standing. In 2003 his name was quietly removed from the roles of the Official Catholic Directory. Neither Burke nor the diocese would comment on his whereabouts or status.

Doe requested multiple times that Bishop Burke hand over her allegations to the diocese's Child Sexual Abuse Review Board. Burke refused. In a July 15, 2003, letter to Doe, he writes: "Regarding Father Garthwaite, as you know, he has been removed from ministry. Given the fact that he has already been removed from ministry, it is not necessary to present your case to the Review Panel. The Review Panel is only used in those cases in which there is a question of whether or not a priest ought to be removed from ministry. If that has already occurred, no review is necessary or possible."

The bishop's reasoning appears to contradict the "Child Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures of the Diocese of La Crosse," which Burke himself had composed a year earlier. According to Article 10 of that document, "If the accusation is not admitted, the matter will be referred to the Diocese of La Crosse Child Sexual Abuse Review Board."

It is possible, of course, that Garthwaite admitted guilt. At any rate, in an evident change of heart, Burke informed Doe a month later that he was in fact sending the matter on to the Child Sexual Abuse Review Board, "to see whether the members judge it fitting to speak with you personally."

According to one member of the board, Doe's file has yet to arrive. The board member says the panel has received only three cases from Burke. Two of them involved priests who had died; the third was the recently investigated case of B.V. and Raymond Bornbach.

"There were no allegations brought to us formally on Garthwaite," the board member says. "Like I say, the ones we have, have all been against deceased priests. Bornbach is the only living priest that has come before the review board."

In a written response to a series of questions, Father Lawrence Dunklee, vicar of priests for the Diocese of La Crosse, tersely refutes the board member's claim, calling it "untrue" and asserting that the diocese has adhered strictly both to the criteria set out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and to Burke's own policy on sexual-abuse claims.

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