Thursday, April 25, 2024

Wisconsin DOJ inquiry into clergy abuse reaches 3 years. Here's what we know so far

From JSOnline:

Laura Schulte
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON – The investigation into clergy abuse in Wisconsin, launched by Attorney General Josh Kaul, is now three years old.

Since its launch, the inquiry has brought charges against clergy members and resulted in hundreds of reports gathered from religious organizations across the state.

Here's what we know about the ongoing look at abuse by clergy in Wisconsin.

How many clergy abuse reports have been made to the DOJ?

As of April 24, there have been 274 completed reports with the department, according to information from a department press release Thursday.

Of those reports, 66 had never been reported before and 76 had only been reported to a religious authority and not to law enforcement.

What has it accomplished so far?

Charges have been filed against three current or former clergy members or counselors, or the abuse has been reported to a religious authority and the abuser has been added to the list of credibly accused abusers.

A year ago, Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal of the Catholic Church, was charged with one count of fourth-degree sexual assault for an incident that occurred in 1977. The former cardinal allegedly engaged in repeated sexual abuse of the victim over time, including once fondling the victim while staying as a guest at a Lake Geneva residence.

In January, the court determined McCarrick was not competent to stand trial. That decision will be reviewed in a Dec. 27 hearing.

In addition, abuse by John Cullinan, a deceased Catholic priest who served in the La Crosse diocese, was reported for the first time. The DOJ worked with the diocese to add his name to its list of clergy with substantiated allegations of abuse.

In May 2022, an arrest warrant was issued for 61-year-old Jeffrey Anthony Charles, who police say sexually assaulted a minor at a cabin in Douglas County between 2005 and 2010. 

Charles served as the pastor for the nondenominational church Neighbors to Nations in Princeton, Minn., at the time of the assaults, but routinely traveled to his Wisconsin cabin with parishioners. He is accused of assaulting the victim four times five years, while the victim was between the ages of 3 and 7.

In February 2022, Remington Jon Nystrom, 33, was charged with one count of first-degree sexual contact with a child under 13 in connection with an incident that occurred in 2009. Nystrom was a counselor at a Mount Morris camp in Waushara County when, police say, he inappropriately touched a sleeping child. The camp is affiliated with the Moravian Church of America.

Last year, Nystrom was convicted of second-degree sexual abuse of a child, and sentenced to seven years of prison, followed by 10 years of extended supervision.

Two cases have also been handed over to Brown County investigators, but no charges have yet been filed there

Have the Catholic dioceses helped with the investigation?

The five dioceses in Wisconsin haven't voluntarily opened up their records for the department but have said that if there is a specific allegation for a current, living member of the clergy they'd be willing to share information with investigators.

Is the inquiry only looking at Catholic clergy?

No, the department is accepting reports and tips relating to abuses of power in all types of religious institutions. Only a few of the cases that have been made public have involved Catholic clergy.

Will the report be released soon?

There is still no formal release date for the report, according to the press release, because some reports are still being followed up on. But when it is released, it will include an overview of the inquiry, a summary of the reports made and what was done in response. It will also include institutional responses to allegations.

When was the inquiry started?

Kaul announced the faith leader review at the end of April 2021.

What have critics said?

Members of the advocacy group Nate's Mission, named for a man who took his life after being abused as a child by a priest, have raised questions about the department's inquiry. In particular, the group wants Kaul to be more aggressive with obtaining information directly from the Catholic dioceses and, in particular, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The group has applauded the resources provided for survivors but says there needs to be more action taken.

What's going on with the Archdiocese lawsuit?

In August, Kaul sought access to court documents sealed nearly a decade ago as a part of a bankruptcy filing by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The bankruptcy filing was related to a $21 million settlement to compensate victims of sexual abuse by clergy.

The department is still waiting to hear from the courts on whether the documents will be unsealed for examination by Kaul and his team.

Kaul said in August that he filed the motion because the Archdiocese has not voluntarily provided records for the inquiry.

In response, the Archdiocese said that the request was a violation of the survivors and others in the case, because private details could become available to investigators.

What happens when someone makes a report?

When a survivor or someone with knowledge of abuse makes a report to the hotline or online, they're put into contact with a victim services worker who can steer then to resources if needed.

Then each claim is looked into be a team of people across different specialties, who decide if the claim can be forwarded to local authorities.

How can I report abuse or knowledge of abuse?

To file a report, call 877-222-2620 or use the online reporting tool at Both options provide the ability to file an anonymous tip. 

The department is still accepting reports and said survivors have control of what happens after their report is received. 

Laura Schulte can be reached at and on X at @SchulteLaura


As usual, the Catholic Church is doing what it can to protect its pedophiles.  Their senile, demented "leader" keeps spitting up platitudes while the priests bugger the kids.  Amen.

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