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AG Josh Kaul says clergy abuse investigation is a 'safe and trusted place,' declines to get into specifics
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AG Josh Kaul says clergy abuse investigation is a 'safe and trusted place,' declines to get into specifics

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Nearly three months into a statewide investigation of clergy abuse, Attorney General Josh Kaul says the effort has received more than 100 reports but declined to say how many of them have generated referrals to law enforcement or for victim services.

New Zealand's Catholic Church formally apologised on Friday (March 26) to the survivors of abuse within the church and said its systems and culture must change.

Kaul, who faces election next year, also would not go into specifics about whether Wisconsin’s four Catholic dioceses and one archdiocese are cooperating with the investigation, but called their participation so far “uneven.”

He spoke during a press conference Monday at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, the first of six such events the first-term Democrat plans to conduct around the state to talk about the probe, which he promoted as a “safe and trusted place for survivors to report.”

Josh Kaul

Kaul

While the investigation is not specific to any one religious faith, the Catholic Church has been embroiled in investigations of clergy abuse of children by priests for more than two decades in countries around the world.

Kaul said “a number of the reports relate to incidents from many years ago and are outside of the scope of the statute of limitations.” He would not say how many could be subject to prosecution and will wait until the end of the review to provide such detail.

In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Archdiocese has said it will not turn over documents to Kaul’s investigators, saying the attorney general lacks the authority to initiate the investigation, its records are sealed as a result of its 2012 bankruptcy case, and that it has for nearly 20 years been publicizing the names of credibly accused clergy and provides anti-abuse training to staff.

The Diocese of Madison last month sent a letter to Kaul’s office in response to the probe, but declined to release it publicly. In a June 4 statement, it said “the letter reiterates that the Diocese’s reforms are working and that there have been zero credible allegations against clergy or faith leaders of sexual abuse of minors that occurred in the last 10 years.”

DOJ denied a public records request from the Wisconsin State Journal for the diocese’s letter, saying disclosure could hamper its clergy abuse review.

“Overall between diocese and religious orders I would say that the response has been uneven,” Kaul said, “and it’s part of the reason that these reports are so critically important.”

Kaul on Monday would not say if he would subpoena uncooperative dioceses for documents.

He said he was driven to begin the review in April because he’s heard from “survivors of clergy abuse who have been concerned that there has never been an independent, statewide review conducted in Wisconsin.” He said more than 20 other states have launched similar reviews.

One of Kaul’s Republican opponents in next year’s race, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, said he fights for and stands with survivors of sexual assault, but criticized Kaul as ineffective amid an increase in homicides and other violent crime.


UPDATED COLLECTION: The Altman file, full coverage, reaction since public condemnation of Democrats

Here's a look at our full coverage since September of Father James Altman's partisan charges against Democrats, his anti-vaccine rhetoric and largely maskless services at St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse, the recent diocesan action against him, and some related columns and letters from readers.

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The following is the full statement from the Diocese of La Crosse, sent Monday afternoon after the Tribune published a story on the bishop's request. You can read the story here:

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Father James Altman, pastor of St. James Catholic Church, La Crosse, wrongly asserts, “You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.” He adds that Catholic Democrats must repent or “face the fires of hell.”

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Well one week from today is Halloween. You know tricks, treats and gangway. Or the poem from your years as a kid “Tonight is the night ,When dead leaves fly, Like witches on switches, Across the sky, When elf and sprite, Flit through the night, On a moony sheen." (Harry Behn 1898-1973). That is for next week though.

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James Altman is a Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin, little known outside his parish until a few weeks ago. Robert Jeffress is the high-profile pastor of a Baptist megachurch in Dallas. They have a message in common for members of their faiths: Voting for Democrats who support abortion rights is an evil potentially deserving of eternal damnation.

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In a new video, published by the same far-right media outlet, Father James Altman of La Crosse said he stands by his messages from a past video that Catholic Democrats are impostors, and adds that "hell" is seen in "left wing cancel culture."

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"There's the ultra right and the ultra left in the church, and it seems that the gospel message itself is somewhere in between."

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"Examine the issues. Examine your values. Examine your hearts," Sister Eileen McKenzie, president of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, said in a statement.

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I have some words of advice for Father James Altman of La Crosse. Read the Bible verse: Matthew 7: 1-5 “Judge not that you be not judged.”

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l am writing in response to coverage of Father James Altman from La Crosse.

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This is my first, and potentially my last, letter to the editor.

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Wow! La Crosse Diocese priest James Altman declares: "Godless Dems Will Go to Hell!"

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I am a Catholic in the Diocese of La Crosse.

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The Faithful America petition asking La Crosse Bishop William Callahan to fire Fr. James Altman for spreading deadly vaccine misinformation and breaking COVID-19 protocols gathered more than 10,000 signatures in its first 24 hours, the group said.

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This letter is in support of Fr. James Altman. He is a hero to thousands of Catholics -- perhaps tens of thousands. He is what a leader used to be in "The Church."

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I write in support of Father James Altman and wish to express the thoughts that many faithful Catholics from around the country have with regard to his speaking out against the COVID-19 vaccines and the shuttering of our churches.

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Not a good week for the La Crosse Catholic Diocese.. First it gets hit with the start of an investigation by the Wisconsin Attorney General relating to sex abuse and the resulting coverups. Then its alt-right celebrity Father Altman again strikes spewing his deceitful (per the Diocese) and hateful ideas about any number of things from his pulpit and violating local law and church policy on COVID precautions. And, he apparently has become the darling of alt-right hate groups by contributing material to their social media and internet sites. What a guy!

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I wholeheartedly support Fr. James Altman, a man following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

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I live in the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. I am writing in support of Father James Altman once again, to point out the unity that he has achieved worldwide amongst believers.

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