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Up To 21 Milwaukee Priests Accused Of Sex Abuse

Apr 17, 2002 | WISN

A leading advocate for the victims of sexual abuse by priests around Milwaukee is calling for an independent review.

He wants a grand jury review of all cases of sexual abuse where the priest is still alive.

Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland appointed a special commission to study how the archdiocese has handled past reports of abuse, but several victims said that doesn't go far enough and are now seeking the direct involvement of district attorney E. Michael McCann.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese three weeks ago named a special panel to investigate its handling of sexual abuse by priests. So far, though, members have focused on only six of the 21 priests accused of sexual misconduct with children and minors, WISN 12 News reporter Nick Bohr said.

According to a document obtained by WISN 12 News, and verified by the archdiocese, incidents of abuse date to the 1940s and involve 36 priests. Of those, 11 are dead and four have left the priesthood, but six have active assignments, six are unassigned, and nine more are retired.

That leaves leaving 21 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese alone with a history of credible allegations of abuse.

"Look, that's 21. That's what they should've said months ago -- 21. People want and need to know that. We don't know who they are, we don't know where they are," victim advocate Peter Isely said.

The archdiocese maintains all of those priests have restrictions on their activities.

"The inference that we haven't shared everything is ridiculous," Milwaukee Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said.

Isely wants a grand jury investigation by the district attorney's office into the alleged abuse, but McCann told WISN 12 News, he's asked that panel to forward to me any cases they believe might be prosecutable.

And while Isely said it should be McCann making that decision, McCann told 12 News "I don't think we should start from a presumption of deceit."

Isely maintains an independent investigation is the only way to bring justice to the victims.

"Let's get to the bottom of it. Let's talk to these guys. Let's talk to the victims. Let's find out how they got away with it and who helped them get away with it and let's come completely clean," Isely said.

The archdiocese maintains all but one case, which recently came to light, are beyond the statute of limitations. McCann is investigating that one incident.

He said his door is wide open to any victims wishing to speak to him.

The commission reviewing the cases is scheduled to meet again next week, with a public meeting planned in June to discuss their findings.

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