The official investigation into sexual abuse among clergy members needs to be escalated, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
“We urge you not to give the Catholic Church the opportunity to cover up for its own clergy,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Kaul.
The investigation was opened in April 2021, wherein the Wisconsin Department of Justice committed to investigating allegations of sexual abuse among clergy members and other faith-based community leaders in the state. After a year, it was downgraded to “review,” leaving officials unable to conduct a thorough investigation.
“Clergy abuse has long infiltrated religious institutions in Wisconsin, much like the rest of the country,” writes FFRF. “Survivors deserve an investigation that holds perpetrators — and those who provide them a safe haven — accountable.”
More than 200 reports of clergy abuse had been filed in the year with the Wisconsin DOJ since the investigation had been launched. Just last month the Diocese of Superior released 23 names of alleged abusers, prompting FFRF to seek a reopening of the attorney general’s independent investigation.
During similar investigations in other states, independent, secular investigations have revealed many more perpetrators than the church has owned up to. In Illinois, for example, advocates for clergy abuse victims named twice as many offenders as did the Catholic Church. An independent investigation free from the influence of abusers is required to bring justice to perpetrators.
Ensuring that every potential recourse remains on the table is vital to offering healing to survivors and their families, as well as sending a message that such abuse will not be tolerated in the state of Wisconsin, stresses the national state/church watchdog, based in Madison, Wis.
That’s why it’s crucial for the investigation to escalate from its current state in order to put an end to continued abuse, FFRF insists.
“We ask that you continue to use every resource at your disposal to investigate these claims of abuse in the state of Wisconsin, bring justice to survivors and their families and name and prosecute those who perpetrated and facilitated this abuse,” the FFRF-authored letter states.
Read the full FFRF letter to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul here.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Wisconsin-based national nonprofit with over 38,000 members across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters related to nontheism.