Advocates push for a clergy abuse investigation in memory of Notre Dame graduate who died one year ago
GREEN BAY - Supporters of a man who accused priests at St. Norbert Abbey of sexually abusing him gathered outside a Green Bay Catholic high school Sunday to call on state officials to pull back the curtain on clergy abuse in Wisconsin.
The rally near Notre Dame Academy came two days before the family and friends of Nate Lindstrom will mark one year since he died by suicide on March 9, 2020. Lindstrom, a Notre Dame alumnus, said he endured abuse by three Norbertine priests in the 1980s while he worked for clergymen who often took him to the abbey swimming pool.
He received $420,000 in secret payments from the De Pere-based abbey over 10 years until the order's officials deemed his allegations not credible and stopped sending money, a Green Bay Press-Gazette investigation found.
"I wish things would have been different," Lindstrom said in a text message to the Press-Gazette weeks before his death at age 45. "I was so damn optimistic and so certain in my future. Then the cult abuse (happened) and everything was gone. I never fit in again. I lost my innocence."
Outside Notre Dame on Sunday, Lindstrom's supporters called on Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to investigate religious institutions across the state — something survivors and their advocates have long pushed as Catholic dioceses reviewed abuse allegations outside the purview of law enforcement. A USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin analysis in 2019 found over 130 priests in the state had been credibly accused of sexual assault.
"All Nate wanted to do was to love justice and to love his church at the same time," said Peter Isely, who helped to found the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "That's all he wanted. But his church made it impossible for him to love both those things, and Nate chose to love justice, and he took that love with him to his death."
Isely is also the program director for Nate's Mission, a new initiative of the nonprofit Ending Clergy Abuse that aims to support survivors and advocate for an investigation in Wisconsin.
The rally was the latest in a series of efforts among Notre Dame alumni to pressure the Norbertines and school officials to take action in the wake of Lindstrom's death. The group has called for the resignation of Abbot Dane Radecki, who is the top official at St. Norbert Abbey, as well as two Notre Dame board members who backed a priest convicted of sexually assaulting one of Lindstrom's classmates.
As people stood outside holding signs and photos of Lindstrom, the high school's marquee read, "Remembering Nate Lindstrom."
"St. Norbert Abbey understands the need to remember Nate Lindstrom on the anniversary of his death as well as throughout the year," abbey officials said in a statement Sunday. "We will be praying for Nate, his family, and all victims of abuse that they may find hope and healing."
Lindstrom's family met with the attorney general last month and say they're hopeful that change is in sight.
"Nate's mission has always been that this doesn't happen to anybody else," said his father, David. "There's a lot of kids out there who have been molested, and it's good to have them have a place to come forward."