Norbertine Release of Credibly Accused Priest Sex Offenders Raises More Questions than Answers
Today, the Norbertine Religious Order have finally released a list of priests publicly accused of abuse. We believe that this release – and others by other church officials in Wisconsin – should be reviewed and investigated by the state attorney general.
The release from the Norbertines includes the names of 22 priests that church officials, including the current Abbot and several former Abbots of the religious order, knew had sexually assaulted children in the Green Bay diocese. This long-overdue move comes as twenty state attorney generals around the United States have opened investigations into the abuse of children and subsequent cover-up by church officials since last summer’s release of the explosive Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania.
Other states that have issued preliminary findings of their investigations show the same pattern of abuse and cover up that was dramatically demonstrated in Pennsylvania. Specifically, where church officials have claimed to release full lists of credibly accused clerics those lists have been found to dramatically undercount the actual number of accused clerics and yet another attempt to mislead the public and law enforcement. In Illinois, for example the Attorney General recently found that over 500 credibly accused priests were not reported, fully two-thirds of all accused clerics.
Additionally, these lists do not provide the information that is crucial to understanding how thousands of children were sexually assaulted in Wisconsin over the past several decades. We can only question how did scores of child molesters evade justice when their superiors knew they were assaulting children? We believe the answer to this question can best be found by Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Every clerical offender on today’s list has a file concerning their crimes, what church officials knew about those crimes, and what actions were taken and by whom in response to those allegations. If the Norbertines were serious about justice, they would have immediately turned over all their files to the Attorney General of Wisconsin and the District Attorney of Green Bay. Then, properly redacted to protect victim identities, they would release these files to victims, Catholics and the public.
Unfortunately, law enforcement investigations of crimes against children by priests have too long been “outsourced” to church officials and “private” consultants. The institution that has been shown to have allowed children to be raped and assaulted is not the institution who should be allowed to investigate itself, decide what information it will and will not release, and then serve up their own conclusions.
We know that the only credible source to vet any list of abusers by released by church officials is law enforcement, specifically the attorney general. We are hopeful that A.G. Kaul will join his colleagues across the country soon and start investigating these cases in Wisconsin.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)