Surprising No One, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Refuses to Participate in State Probe into Catholic Clergy Abuse

In a move that surprises no one in the clergy abuse prevention and support community, Wisconsin’s largest diocese has publicly announced that it will fight the independent investigation into cases of Catholic clergy abuse and cover-up in their state. Given this Archdiocese’s history of deceptive behavior, we are not surprised by their announcement and consider it proof-positive that secular oversight is sorely needed.

In a week when a mass grave at a Catholic run school was discovered in British Columbia and that nation's prime minister has asked the Pope for an apology and greater transparency, it is disappointing that in Wisconsin a Catholic metropolitan wants to continue hiding secrets in plain sight.

The attorney for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee sent a letter to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul telling him that his recently-announced probe into clergy abuse is an illegal and unfair attack on the Catholic Church. The letter also erroneously claims that the probe is a political move designed by Democrats, ignoring the bi-partisan nature of the investigations that have gone on in other states like Missouri, Florida, and Colorado. Finally, the lawyer asserts that the fact that the documents were sealed in a 2012 bankruptcy case should preclude the investigation from proceeding.

In our opinion, the arguments made by the Archdiocese’s lawyer clearly demonstrate fear for what this secular investigation might find and publicize. We know that Catholic officials in Milwaukee improperly hid assets and lied during the course of their bankruptcy case, so it is not a stretch to assume they may have lied about the extent of clergy abuse within their borders as well. If the examples of investigations in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan are any guide, a robust probe of Wisconsin's Catholic dioceses will reveal hidden predators and may even result in arrests. Both of those developments could save the lives and souls of children and help survivors heal. It seems to us that the only logical explanation for this refusal is that the Archdiocese has looked into its secret archives of sexual abuse and knows that what is there would reveal horrors currently unknown to parishioners and the public.

We are grateful to AG Kaul for his efforts to get this probe up and running and are confident that, through the work of his office and the local survivor advocates in Wisconsin, much will be revealed about the past that can help prevent abuse in the future. We hope that Catholic officials in Milwaukee will be forced to change their tone from one of defiance to one of remorse.

CONTACT: Peter Isely, SNAP Wisconsin ([email protected], 414-429-7259), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

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