Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announces a statewide investigation into clergy abuse. (Screenshot | WisEye)
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into sexual abuse by members of the clergy has drawn nearly 180 reports that include allegations of abuse by clergy or faith leaders and institutional failure to respond, according to a Wednesday news release from DOJ.
The investigation into clergy abuse in WIsconsin was launched in April by Attorney General Josh Kaul and the district attorneys of the five counties in which Wisconsin’s Catholic dioceses are located. The investigation is focused on new and old reports of abuse by clergy members mostly in the Catholic church but also other denominations.
Prior to the investigation, 160 allegations of clergy abuse had been identified by several churches and religious orders. After six months, the investigation has unearthed 40 never before reported allegations, according to the release.
“Thank you to the courageous people who have come forward to provide information about clergy and faith leader abuse,” Kaul said in a statement. “This review seeks to help bring healing to survivors and to help stop future harm, and we continue to encourage survivors and others with information to report.”
Of the 180 reports made to the investigators, 80% were reports of abuse and 20% involved how a religious institution responded to a report, the release states. The reports have come from children under the age of 18 and adults as old as 75 and from every Catholic diocese in the state. Wisconsin has Catholic dioceses based in Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee and Superior.
Other reports were made about other religious denominations or that don’t involve any religious organization.
Similar efforts in other states have unearthed thousands of instances of abuse spanning decades. A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found more than 300 “predator priests” with more than 1,000 victims.
After the investigation was announced, leaders in most of the state’s Catholic dioceses highlighted the work they’ve done to support victims of abuse and stated that they’d cooperate with the investigation.
The leadership of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee instead attacked the investigation and said it unfairly singled out Catholics.
“There is no evidence that the Church as a whole and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee hasn’t already taken all possible steps in addressing issues surrounding clergy sexual abuse,” Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff to the Archbishop of Milwaukee, said. “We also do not understand the legal basis for the inquiry. We also question why only the Catholic Church is being singled out for this type of review when sexual abuse is a societal issue.”
The DOJ investigation is ongoing and survivors of abuse can make reports online or by phone.
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