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Catholic lawyer says La Crosse Diocese uses too high a standard on abuse cases

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LA CROSSE - A Catholic lawyer says the La Crosse Diocese might be putting young people at risk. James Connell says a church review board uses too high of a standard in deciding if sexually-abusive priests should be punished.

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He says it might have caused the diocese for western and central Wisconsin to return abusive priests to the ministry - and he wants church officials to review all cases in which the standard was used. But the La Crosse Diocese insists that no child is at risk - it looked at the review board's decisions and found nothing wrong - and Connell's concerns are unfounded.

Connell is a canon lawyer in Milwaukee, and he learned about the La Crosse situation while reviewing a matter for his own archdiocese. He said he tried for three months to get state and national church officials to make La Crosse change its standard - and he said he went public only after they failed to do so.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki was the most recent bishop in La Crosse. He said there's no problem with child safety - but he said his Auxiliary Bishop, William Callahan, would review the board's standards once he become the new La Crosse bishop in August. A study in 2004 found that the La Crosse Diocese found its clergy innocent in 64-percent of sex abuse cases it reviewed from 1950-to-2002. That was much higher than the national average of around 10-percent.

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