Churchgoers react to retired bishop's requested removal from ministry

St. Willebrord Church after mass on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. (WLUK/Mike Moon)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Earlier this week, the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay removed retired Bishop Robert Morneau from public ministry, at his request.

Morneau admitted to not reporting to authorities a case of sexual abuse of a child by a priest in the diocese in 1979. He came forward as the church calls for more accountability on the part of bishops.

On Sunday, priests addressed the situation in church. Congregations met for the first time Sunday since Morneau’s request.

“I'm very surprised, I’m very sad,” said churchgoer Joan Shefchik.

Bishop Ricken called Morneau’s failure to report the sexual-abuse allegations from 1979 a "mishandling" last week in a letter.

“The actions of a few have made it very difficult for all of us,” said Ricken. He also granted Morneau’s request to be removed.

“We were all asked to read the letter from Bishop Ricken,” Rev. Andrew Cribben, pastor of St. Willebrord Church, said during his homily on Sunday.

“And I had some additional commentary on that,” he said. “You know, the Diocese of Green Bay, this is not the first wave of accusations or experience and observation of the troubles that exist in the churches.”

Cribben said Morneau is setting an example by coming forward with his mistakes.

“He could've just stayed quiet and it wouldn’t have made any difference. No one would’ve known the difference if he said nothing,” said Cribben.

Cribben welcomes the skepticism of anyone during church.

“To be a leader in a church as a priest and to stand before people and say please trust and they say 'Why?'” he acknowledged. “There is many different levels that we have to address it, and certainly one of them is that people feel comfortable with the leaders in their church.”

FOX 11 spoke to people leaving church Sunday morning as well.

"I'm happy he came forward. I'm just still really surprised because he’s pretty high on my list of human beings,” said Shefchik. “It’s just been confusing. I'm glad he came forward, and I’m sad for everybody that’s hurt.”

Others shared the same admiration for Morneau. They just hope this sheds light on the issue and hope parishioners come forward much sooner in the future.

Cribben said the recent events have not hurt attendance and visitors have been supportive.

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