Norbertines Add Two Names to List of Accused, Including Former Leader of the Order
A year and a half after they first released names of abusers, Catholic officials from the Norbertine order have added two new names to their list and agreed to have another review of their abuse files by an outside law firm. We are glad that the order is taking a more unbiased review of its files and hope that they continue to update their list with more information.
Of the two names released today, both worked as teachers; Abbot Benjamin Mackin at multiple high schools and Fr. Arnold Schinkten at St. Norbert College. Norbertine officials should be clear on the level of access that these men had to children and vulnerable adults.
Notably, Fr. Mackin was a former Abbot in charge of the order from 1982 to 1994, something that we consider to be a huge red flag. In places where bishops, provincials, or abbots are accused, abuse report rates are generally lower than in other places – for example in the Diocese of Palm Beach, FL under Bishop Joseph Keith Symons or the Legion of Christ under Marcial Maciel – likely because an abuser was able to control the flow of information within their diocese or order. We suspect that is the case here.
In addition, the list released by the Norbertines is woefully inadequate. We hope that, as a result of this second review, they update it to be more in line with the standard set by other, more transparent Church officials. Specifically, they should follow the example set by the diocesan leaders in Sacramento as well as the structure used by that diocese. It is important that complete work histories, photographs, and information on when allegations were first received are included in the updated list. Anything less is an active choice to be opaque instead of transparent. If Norbertine officials wanted to truly demonstrate transparency, they would go above and beyond to include details on each abuser's work history prior to ordination, victim counts per perpetrator, and whether or not they worked with other abusers.
The step taken by the Norbertines to hire an outside reviewer is a good one, but ultimately falls short of the best possible action. We know that order leaders have a file concerning every clerical offender on their list, including what the order knew about those crimes, and what actions were taken and by whom in response to those allegations. We call on Norbertine officials to voluntarily turn those files over to local prosecutors and Wisconsin’s attorney general so that they can be investigated by a truly unbiased source and any crimes can be professionally evaluated and charges brought where possible.
(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)