A Chippewa Falls church with ties to a former Boyd priest later found to have credible accusations of child sex abuse made against him, will soon be dedicating a memorial to victims of clergy sex abuse, the memorial both approved and subsidized by the La Crosse diocese. Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Chippewa Falls will be dedicating the memorial in early December. The memorial unveiling and dedication follows the release of a list by the Diocese of LaCrosse in early 2020 with the names of clergy found to have substantiated allegations of child sex abuse made against them.
One such priest, Father Eugene Comiskey, served at Holy Ghost as well as St. Joseph’s in Boyd before dying in 1982. Comiskey was listed to have “multiple” credible accusations of child sex abuse made against him. Conversations between Father Justin Kizewski (then serving as pastor at Holy Ghost) and abuse survivors then led to the memorial being commissioned.
As to the memorial itself, it is currently unveiled off of Main Street in Chippewa Falls and was commissioned from Altoona artist Mark Blaskey. The memorial’s title is “Promises Broken and Kept,” with elements meant to reflect promises broken (by clergy) and kept (by Christ). These include a left-hand holding the cross (improper), the cross itself being cracked at top, and an open nail wound in the hand of Christ taking that of a small child, while a verse from Matthew references the importance of conduct towards children and others.
Following the Spotlight investigation by the Boston Globe and widespread scandal in the early 2000s, the Catholic Church has since written protocols and put safeguards in place meant to reduce the possibility of such abuse repeating itself, including taking fingerprints for volunteers working with children as well as mandatory Safe Environment training. Those who perpetrate sex abuse often look for positions of authority and trust to use as a cover, not limiting themselves to the Catholic priesthood or a religious setting.
Finally, a list of priests who worked in the Diocese of LaCrosse and were later found to have credible accusations of child sex abuse is kept on the diocesan website at https://diolc.org, including those not attached but serving at one time in the diocese. The link to the list of clergy disclosures is on the lower left side of the website’s homepage.
The memorial to clergy abuse victims is at Holy Ghost Catho –
lic Church in Chippewa Falls. Photo by Joseph Back.