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Green Bay Diocese responds to reports of new clergy abuse evidence

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 11:53 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2022 at 3:16 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 1/21: The Diocese of Green Bay says it is communicating with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul’s office related to a statewide probe into clergy abuse.

The Diocese says it will provide “documents relating to any prosecutable crimes uncovered by the Attorney General’s Office during his review.”

The full statement comes one day after Nate’s Mission says it gave the Brown County District Attorney a list of abusive clergy, school faculty and volunteers. Among the list are 69 alleged offenders not on the Green Bay public registry.

“Church whistleblowers around the state have been obtaining this, finding this, getting this. Getting it to us. Getting it to survivors to get to law enforcement because they concerned,” Peter Isely, program director for Nate’s Mission, said.

Nate’s Mission is a Wisconsin-based project of Ending Clergy Abuse.

“We do not know the names to which Peter Isley of Nate’s Mission refers nor do we know where he derives his information. Regarding this declaration of new evidence, no one from Nate’s Mission, including Mr. Isley, has contacted the Diocese in recent months to report any specific information related to abuse. The Diocese has and will continue its practice of notifying authorities of allegations of abuse it receives,” reads a statement from the Diocese.

“We wish to emphasize that the Diocese of Green Bay firmly remains dedicated to the protection of children and vulnerable adults. The Diocese has implemented a variety of tools over the past several decades to ensure the safety of every person in the Diocese, including background checks, rigorous safe environment training and education, mandatory reporting mechanisms and outreach to survivors of abuse. As part of this effort, in the fall of 2018, the Diocese engaged an independent investigative firm to conduct an outside review of the files of all diocesan priests and deacons. This review brought about the release in January 2019 of the list of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, which can be found at https://www.gbdioc.org/protecting-our-children/clergy-disclosure-list. The diocese will continue to walk with victims/survivors in their process of healing.”

Nate’s Mission responded to the diocese with a statement Friday afternoon saying, in part, that the reason Green Bay church officials don’t have many of the documents is because criminal evidence was “systematically destroyed,” according to church whistleblowers.

The statement goes on to read, “In this afternoon’s press release, the Green Bay diocese stated that they would provide documents relating to any ‘prosecutable crimes’ to Attorney General Kaul’s office. Per Wisconsin state law, the Green Bay diocese does not possess the statutory authority to determine whether cases are prosecutable. Attorney General Kaul, however, does possess the authority to make these determinations and act accordingly. As such, we expect his office to issue subpoenas to retrieve evidence from the Green Bay diocese and compel the testimony of individuals involved in institutional concealment of criminal evidence.”

Victims hope their delivery urges Brown County District Attorney David Lasee to subpoena evidence and compel testimony of church officials involved in covering up child sexual abuse.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay added two more names last month, Walter Williams and Dennis Lally, to the list it keeps available on its website of credibly accused clergy members.

Nate’s Mission is named after Nate Lindstrom of De Pere who died by suicide in 2020 after claiming he was sexually abused by a norbertine priest while a student at what’s now known as Norte Dame Academy.

According to the Notre Dame school’s website, the academy was established in 1990 when St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School consolidated. St. Joseph Academy was an all-girls school, while Abbot Pennings and Our Lady of Premontre were all-boys schools.

INITIAL REPORT

A list of alleged clergy sex offenders in the Green Bay Diocese was delivered to the Brown County District Attorney office Thursday afternoon.

“The public list provided by the Green Bay Diocese has 50 names on it. This list that we have today that was provided by whistleblowers contains 69 additional names,” Nate’s Mission Deputy Director Sarah Pearson said.

The list includes abusive clergy, school faculty and volunteers, says Nate’s Mission, a Wisconsin-based project of Ending Clergy Abuse. Among the list are 69 alleged offenders not on the Green Bay public registry.

“Church whistleblowers around the state have been obtaining this, finding this, getting this. Getting it to us. Getting it to survivors to get to law enforcement because they concerned,” Peter Isely, program director for Nate’s Mission, said.

In a statement to Action 2 News, Green Bay’s diocese says, ”we wish to emphasize that the Diocese of Green Bay remains dedicated to the protection of children and vulnerable adults...We will continue to walk with victims/survivors in their process of healing.”

Victims hope their delivery urges Brown County District Attorney David Lasee to subpoena evidence and compel testimony of church officials involved in covering up child sexual abuse.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay added two more names last month, Walter Williams and Dennis Lally, to the list it keeps available on its website of credibly accused clergy members.

St. Norbert Abbey has 22 priests listed on its website with credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

The document dump comes days after representatives of Ending Clergy Abuse delivered thousands of pages revealing sexual abuse within all five Catholic dioceses and several religious orders to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul’s office.

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Among the uncovered documents are evidence of charitable fraud and destruction of abuse files by the diocese in 2007, Nate’s Mission says. A 2017 letter instructing church officials to “preserve documents related to child sex abuse ‘indefinitely’” was also found, according to a press release.

“If you’re taking money, if you’re destroying evidence, if you’re moving guys around. Offenders around. It costs a lot of money. Where’s it coming from? All that has to be examined,” Isely said.

Nate’s Mission is named after Nate Lindstrom of De Pere who died by suicide in 2020 after claiming he was sexually abused by a norbertine priest while a student at what’s now known as Norte Dame Academy.

According to Notre Dame’s website, the Academy was established in 1990, when St. Joseph Academy, Abbot Pennings High School and Our Lady of Premontre High School consolidated. St. Joseph Academy was an all-girls school, while Abbot Pennings and Our Lady of Premontre were all-boys schools.

Last year Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul launched a statewide probe of the five archdioceses into allegations of clergy abuse.

Action 2 News reached out to the Kaul’s office and Brown County District Attorney David Lasee’s office, but did not get a response.

Below is the entire statement the Diocese of Green Bay provided to Action 2 News:

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