Church Whistleblower Regrets not Having Blown Her Whistle Stronger


Jennifer Haselberger calls the Catholic Church her home. Two relatives went into religious life. Haselberger was a canon lawyer for the archdiocese until she could no longer tolerate her warnings of sexual abuse being ignored by church officials.

Haselberger says that she began complaining to church leaders about a priest in 2008. Their inaction allowed this priest to molest two boys in his camper in 2010. Recently, Haselberger found indecent materials, including pictures of child pornography, on computer disks that belonged to a priest who is still in ministry. When Archbishop John Nienstedt did not respond to Haselberg's complaints, she resigned and reported two priests to police officers. Her only regret is that she did not do more to stop the abuse.

Introducing the Catholic Whistleblowers

The Catholic Whistleblowers are a group of priests and nuns who want to push Catholic Church leaders, including the Pope, to enforce the zero-tolerance policy of abuse that was adopted more than 10 years ago. Most of the members of the Catholic Whistleblower’s steering group have reported abusers in the past. Three are canon lawyers who handled abuse cases for the church. Four admit to being victims of sexual abuse as kids.

What is the group's goal?

The Catholic Whistleblowers have two primary goals: support victims and fellow whistleblower and to identify inadequate church policies. One priest describes members as having dedicated their lives to the church and wanting to make it better and safer.

First step

The group has already sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to take action against sexual abuse. The group challenged the Pope to take the following steps:

  • Revoke oaths of secrecy
  • Open files on abuse cases
  • Remove any bishop who obstructed justice
  • Create an international forum to advance dialogue between survivors and church leaders 

Continued vigilance is necessary. Recently, a priest in Newark, New Jersey who was a convicted sex offender under court ordered restrictions was working with children in a Catholic parish, taking confessions and attending youth retreats. 

Whistleblowing plays a valuable role in all aspects of our lives — preventing fraud in business, protecting the environment and combating criminal activity.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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