GREEN BAY — The Diocese of Green Bay responded on Friday to claims by an advocacy group that it covered up 69 additional priests linked to child abuse.
“Regarding this reporting of new evidence, no one from the Nate Mission, including Mr. (Peter) Isely, has contacted the Diocese in recent months to report specific abuse-related information,” a statement from the Diocese of Green Bay. “The diocese has and will continue its practice of notifying authorities of abuse allegations it receives.”
The Diocese’s statement comes a day after attorneys from Nate’s mission turned over documents to the office of Brown County Attorney David Lasee. Isely, the advocacy group’s program director, told reporters on Thursday that the documents were obtained by whistleblowers operating from inside the church.
Isely did not show the Green Bay Press-Gazette the contents of the package or any of the documents to allow the newspaper to independently verify the organization’s claims.
Currently, a list of 50 names appears on the Diocese of Green Bay Diocese Abusive Priests Public Disclosure List.
Nate’s mission said in a statement Friday that it chose not to communicate with the diocese before approaching authorities directly.
“It is Nate’s Mission policy never to provide victim information or criminal evidence of a cover-up to any religious organization, entity or official who is currently the subject of a criminal or civil investigation,” he said. said the statement co-written by Isely and deputy director Sarah Pearson. .
Because of this, the documents were instead delivered to the offices of Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Lasee.
Nate’s Mission, an organization that lobbies for a full account of clergy abuse in Wisconsin, is named after the late Nate Lindstrom of Green Bay, who accused several priests at St. Norbert’s Abbey of abuse. Lindstrom received $420,000 in secret payments from the Catholic order over 10 years until the Abbey stopped sending checks in 2019. He died by suicide in 2020.
Among the papers turned over to Kaul’s office were documents alleging the Diocese of Green Bay destroyed documents in 2007, according to the advocacy group.
The decision to destroy the documents, made by then-Bishop David Zubik, prevented prosecutors from pursuing criminal investigations into the clergy, a statement from Nate’s mission said.
According to the advocacy group, the records show staff reports, parish transfers and minutes of church leaders discussing tactics and strategies to evade prosecution.
Friday’s statement from the Diocese of Green Bay did not mention the destruction of documents. On the contrary, he stressed that the safety of people within the church remains “paramount” for the diocese.
The diocese revealed its decades-long effort to use security tools that “ensure the safety of every person in the diocese, including background checks, rigorous training and education on a safe environment, mandatory reporting mechanisms and outreach to survivors of abuse”.
To this end, the organization said it would cooperate with Kaul’s office.
“The Diocese of Green Bay is currently communicating with Attorney General Josh Kaul’s office and will provide documentation relating to any prosecutable crimes discovered by the Attorney General’s office during its review,” the diocese’s statement read. “Because this process is ongoing, and to protect the integrity of the review and its findings, no further comment will be made at this time.”
But Pearson and Isely dispute that assurance. They countered that the Diocese of Green Bay does not have the statutory authority to determine what is and what is not an actionable offense.
“Attorney General Kaul, however, has the authority to make these decisions and act on them,” the Nate’s Mission statement said. “As such, we expect his office to issue subpoenas to retrieve evidence from the Diocese of Green Bay and compel testimony from individuals involved in the institutional concealment of criminal evidence.”
Last April, Kaul announced a statewide investigation into clergy abuse, a move he hoped would help survivors take control of their stories and lead to greater accountability for perpetrators. .
Four months into Kaul’s initiative, Kaul announced that two cases had been reported directly to the Brown County District Attorney’s office. One case was current and the other was from a few decades ago, according to the Sexual Assault Center of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin.
Isely said he hopes Lasee will “put pressure” on the Diocese of Green Bay with this new information.