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Green Bay religious order covered up child sex crimes, new documents showDelaware’s Child Victims Act leads to release of secret Wisconsin church records
Similar law could force out thousands of such documents across Wisconsin
But state’s bishops pressuring retiring committee chair to keep new measure from vote
Victims and family members of victims will be forwarding the new documents Wednesday with a letter to retiring Wisconsin state representative Carol Owens (Rep. Oshkosh) urging her to vote out of her committee the Wisconsin Child Victim Act, a measure that will force Wisconsin bishops and religious officials to release thousands of secret documents naming scores of never before publicly identified clergy sex predators.
Smith was first caught in the 1970s sexually assaulting boys at a Norbertine high school in Philadelphia, Newman Academy. He was then transferred to Delaware to teach at Archmere Academy in Delaware, a high school also operated by the Norbertines.
While at Archmere, according to federal court testimony in Delaware this year, Smith raped a minor, Kenneth Whitwell, from 1982 to 1984 on dozens of occasions. Smith brought Whitwell to the De Pere Abbey in 1984, sexually assaulting him over a four day period. Those crimes are still prosecutable under the Wisconsin criminal code.
Abbot Neville, in his remarks to Green Bay press last month and in a brief written statement, claimed that the De Pere Norbertines had no knowledge or association with Smith.
Church records released through The Child Victims Act of Delaware this week, however, show that Smith was in fact secretly transferred to the De Pere Abbey in 1985 after confessing to sexually abusing Whitwell. The records also show that the Green Bay Bishop and his personal director knew of Smith’s criminal acts, approved the transfer, and kept Smith form criminal authorities and prosecution.
Smith was placed in ministry in the Green Bay diocese for three years before he was suddenly transferred back to Pennsylvania in 1989. Records then show that Smith was made a trustee of the very high school in Pennsylvania where he was caught years earlier assaulting children. Documents also detail how the Norbertine Provincial falsified reports in 1997 to the bishop of Wilmington, stating that Smith was celibate, never placed on restriction, and never involved in any act of sexual misconduct.
The Child Victim Act of Wisconsin, similar to the Delaware measure that passed unanimously last year, would result in an unprecedented release of church records across Wisconsin detailing crimes against children by scores of clergy over the past several decades. Wisconsin bishops are actively pressuring state lawmakers not to vote on the bill this legislative session, hoping the bill will be held up in the assembly’s Children and Family Committee, chaired by retiring Republican Carol Owen of Oshkosh.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests