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Catholic Diocese Of Green Bay Creates Programs To Help Victims Of Priest Abuse

Diocese Releases Names Of 46 Clergy Members With Substantiated Allegations Of Abuse

The silhouette of a cross on a Catholic church
Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay has set up new programs to assist victims of priest abuse, including a new victim’s assistance team.

Diocese leaders say they’re committed to being more transparent about addressing abuse. On Thursday, the diocese released the names of 46 clergy members with substantiated allegations they sexually abused a minor.

WLUK-TV reports Bishop David Ricken apologized to the victims at a news conference and said the diocese is working hard to win back trust.

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Last fall, the diocese hired investigators to inspect the files on priests and deacons in its 157 parishes. The independent investigation followed the diocese’s own internal review. Only 15 of the 46 clergy members are still alive. One name was withheld pending further review, since the priest has contested his inclusion.

The Rev. John Girotti, of the Diocese of Green Bay, said Friday that “no known priests serving in active ministry in the Diocese of Green Bay have a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Peter Isley, founding member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), sent a letter on Friday to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul asking him to launch a “statewide investigation of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up.”

Isley addressed reporters Friday outside of Green Bay’s Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier and said the Wisconsin Department of Justice should follow the lead of several other states and take on an investigation of clergy abuse.

“The only authority anybody can have confidence in is the attorney general of the state who is responsible for law enforcement in the state, crimes that have taken place in the state, to do a thorough review,” Isley said.

In Green Bay, Alice Hodek, a SNAP volunteer, placed pictures of local victims beneath a welcome sign at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.

She said a family member of her’s was abused by a priest but his name wasn’t on the list released Thursday. She said she believes there are more un-named abusers and unidentified victims,

“There are other people in our community who would have liked to have seen their abuser’s name out there publicly to give them some validation and some credibility, I suppose,” Hodek said.

The Diocese of Green Bay hired the firm of Defenbaugh and Associates to do what officials called an “extensive review of priest and deacon files,” before releasing the names. Since 1906, the report states, 630 ordained priests have served the community.

Isley contends the records have been shredded. According to the diocese, it conducts background checks on all clergy, employees and volunteers.

In a statement, Bishop Ricken was quoted saying:

“My top priorities, as outlined in of my Seven Action Steps to Accountability remain to improve our pastoral care, concern and efforts to accompany victims of abuse in their journey of healing; and, to provide as many ways as possible for those who have been victimized to come forward without fear and to share their story of sexual abuse. We need to know as fully as possible the harm that was done, so we can offer care to victims and ensure no perpetrators remain in ministry.”

Calls to the DOJ weren’t returned by deadline for this story.

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