By Mark Belling, WISN-AM
A letter from the attorneys for the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese claims the investigation into decades-old allegations of abuse of children by priests lacks any legal basis. The letter, signed by attorney Francis LoCoco of Husch Blackwell, further states the investigation is the result of “anti-Catholic bigotry.”
The letter, sent today, (a copy of which was obtained by me), argues that 99% of cases of abuse by priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese occurred before 1998 and the statute of limitations for prosecution has expired. The letter states that the basis for the probe by Attorney General Josh Kaul violates the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights by violating the “establishment clause” and targeting a specific religion.
Kaul’s investigation seems to be based on a probe in Pennsylvania that uncovered abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and ongoing cover-ups of it. But the Milwaukee letter states there is no evidence of any ongoing criminal conduct. The letter specifically accuses Kaul of targeting only the Catholic Church. “While the Attorney General, when pressed, has offered platitudes that the investigation will address other groups, in every official statement the Attorney General makes clear that the Catholic Church is the target of the investigation.”
The Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy several years ago after settlements with a number of individuals who were abused by priests. A database of the abusers has been established.
Kaul’s investigation comes one year before he runs for reelection. Several years ago, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm indicated he may initiate an investigation but never moved forward. Chisholm’s predecessor, former DA E. Michael McCann, was aware of numerous allegations against priests and took no legal action. Former Archdiocesan leaders often consulted McCann about these cases of abuse.
Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who, along with predecessors, was alleged to have covered up abuse by re-assigning priests resigned in disgrace after revelations he paid hush money to an adult accuser. The names of Weakland the late former Archbishop William Cousins have been removed from diocesan buildings.
In recent years, there have been numerous instances of public school teachers have sexual relationships with students. There has been no coordinated legal effort to investigate whether there has been an epidemic of sex abuse among teachers or whether any such abuse has been covered up.
Publicly, the Milwaukee Archdiocese has said it intends to cooperate in Kaul’s investigation. But the language of the letter from the Archdiocese’s lawyers indicates church leaders believe they are being targeted without legal basis in a probe that stems from religious bigotry.