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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letters

Letter to WI State Representative Carol Owens of Oshkosh

To: WI State Representative Carol Owens of Oshkosh

From: Peter Isely, Midwest Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Re: New documents released through the Delaware Childs Victim Act concerning cover up in Green Bay diocese

I am writing on behalf of victims of sexual abuse in the state of Wisconsin, particularly victims of childhood rape and abuse by clergy. 

On January 23, 2008 Wisconsin SNAP leaders hand delivered a letter to Fr. Gary Neville, Abbot of the Norbertine Order in De Pere, urging him and the current acting bishop of the Green Bay diocese, Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, to immediately turn over to authorities Norbertine priest, Fr. Edward Smith. 

The Norbertines operate within the diocese of Green Bay where your district resides. 

I am sure you are familiar with this horrendous case of child abuse because it was brought to your attention, along with other such cases, during the recent hearing you chaired in the state assembly for the Wisconsin Child Victims Act. Because of your senior position on the Committee for Children and Family the fate of this urgent and necessary measure depends upon your allowing the bill to be voted upon soon. 

Fr. Smith was first caught in the 1970s sexually assaulting boys at a Norbertine high school in Philadelphia. Then he was transferred to Delaware to teach at another high school, also operated by the Norbertines. Again he was caught raping and assaulting minors. Then he was secretly transferred to Wisconsin, where recent reports to our organization indicate, he continued his criminal behavior. 

Even before his transfer to Wisconsin, Smith was committing child sex crimes in our state. Smith brought a youngster in 1984 from Delaware to the De Pere Abbey and sexually assaulted him over a four day period. Those crimes are still prosecutable under the Wisconsin criminal code. 

We only know about Smith’s crimes, which could finally lead to his imprisonment, because civil cases in Delaware which are the direct result of that state passing the Child Victims act are forcing depositions and the release of church documents relating to child sex crimes by clergy. Why are Delaware courts uncovering child sex crimes in Wisconsin? Because Wisconsin has yet to pass its own Child Victims Act. 

The Norbertines’ current Abbot, Gary Neville, in his remarks to the Green Bay press last month and in a brief written statement, claimed that the De Pere Norbertines had no knowledge or association with Smith. Who would be inclined to think otherwise? 

Now we know, thanks to the Child Victims Act of Delaware, that Neville is simply not telling the truth.

The Delaware documents prove that Smith was in fact secretly and deliberately transferred to the De Pere Abbey in 1985 after confessing to sexually abusing a child. Records also show that the Green Bay Bishop and his personnel director knew of Smith’s criminal acts, approved the transfer, and conspired with Smith and the Norbertines to keep Smith from criminal authorities and prosecution. 

Smith was placed in ministry in the Green Bay diocese for three years before he was suddenly transferred back to Pennsylvania. Records then show that he was made a trustee of the very high school in Pennsylvania where he was caught years earlier assaulting children. Documents also detail how the Green Bay and Delaware Norbertine Abbots both falsified reports in 1997 to the bishop of Wilmington, stating that Smith was celibate, never placed on restriction, and never involved in any act of sexual misconduct.

The Child Victim Act of Wisconsin, just like the one in Delaware, would result in an unprecedented release of church records across Wisconsin detailing crimes against children by scores of clergy over the past several decades.

You have had long career in our statehouse attempting to fight for the rights of children. Isn’t it time to make all organizational leaders in Wisconsin who have children under their care responsible and accountable to the citizens of our state?

Please, on behalf of Wisconsin’s childhood victims of sexual assault and abuse, vote the Child Victims Act out of our committee.


Peter Isely

SNAP Midwest Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests