Letter to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul
Dear Attorney General Kaul,
We are writing to you as survivors of clergy sexual assault in Wisconsin. Our organization of survivors and the survivors associated with us encompass three generations of victims. Recent developments over the past year in the clergy sexual abuse and cover up crisis has once again engulfed the Catholic church, not only in the United States but around the world. Next month, Pope Francis is convening, for the first time in the history of the church, a global gathering of bishops to address this crisis.
The horror of clerical sexual violence and the failure of the hierarchy to adequately respond to or, worse, actively assist in the continuation of these crimes, is voluminously documented. In the United States, as you probably know, a devastating Grand Jury Report released last summer in Pennsylvania revealed and confirmed the widespread, systematic and institutional complicity in this violence. Since then, fifteen states and the U.S. Department of Justice are now actively investigating sexual abuse and the institutional response by bishops and religious order provincials.
We believe it is long overdue that the State of Wisconsin launch such an investigation, particularly since Wisconsin, unlike many of these other states, already has a large body of evidence of these crimes and cover ups. Of particular concern in Wisconsin is the evidence that has been amassed through a five-year bankruptcy action with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Although concluded, the court record shows that at least 100 never-before identified alleged clerical offenders, who were reported by victims to the court, have not been investigated or named by church officials.
This, sadly, is hardly surprising. The Illinois Attorney General, in issuing a scathing preliminary report of her review of church files last month, concluded last month that nearly two-thirds of priests reported to have assaulted children in that state to church officials have never been reported, some 500 clerics in total.
And just yesterday, in the Diocese of Green Bay, a list of names was released, one that was carefully curated and that has left off the names of at least 16 additional priests that have hurt children and spent time in Wisconsin. Such a release flies in the face of church officials’ promises to be open and transparent.
More alarming has been the direct admissions by Green Bay officials in court depositions that priest abuse files, and the criminal evidence contained in those files, were ordered destroyed by former Bishop David Zubik in 2007. That action has yet to be investigated. Last November, the Federal Department of Justice issued a notification to all bishops in the U.S. to not destroy any records pertaining to sexual abuse by clerics, listing specifically the types of records destroyed by Zubik.
For years, Wisconsin survivors have been denied justice. We have hope that your office can finally give the survivors in your state the transparency they have been promised. By following in the footsteps of AG Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania or AG Lisa Madigan in Illinois, you can shed light on cases that have been hidden, bring hope to those who have been marginalized, and protect future generations of Wisconsin children.
We stand ready, willing and able to assist your office. We can assist with outreach to survivors and to share experiences and cases with you that have been ignored or minimized. We ask only that you accept our help and work with us to make Wisconsin a safer for place for children.
Peter Isely, SNAP Founding Member, Milwaukee
414.429.7259 | [email protected]
Alice Hodek, SNAP Green Bay
920.737.8123 | [email protected]
Patricia Gallagher Marchant, SNAP Madison
414.430.6338 | [email protected]