MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- SNAP -- the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests is responding to the voluntary release of an audit by the Midwest Province of Capuchin Franciscans (which includes Wisconsin) -- naming 23 of 46 friars alleged to have raped or sexually assaulted children.
According to SNAP, this audit was conducted by a three-member team hired by the Capuchins -- including a priest who is a well-known critic of how the church has responded to sexual abuse.
The auditors reviewed files held by the Province, as well as the manner in which the Province responded to incidents and reports of inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual abuse in the past.
In a statement, SNAP says: "The Capuchins are to be commended for this earnest effort to bring transparency to this dark and deceitful corner of their organization and history."
Peter Isely -- a spokesman for SNAP reviewed the findings of the audit the day of its release.
"It has a lot of personal significance. I was sexually assaulted by a Capuchin priest when I was 13 and 14 at their high school boarding seminary which they still operate, St. Lawrence Seminary," Isely said.
In its statement, SNAP refers to a case involving Fr. Jude Hahn -- a recently deceased priest who served as a faculty member at St. Lawrence for three decades, appointed the Freshman dorm supervisor, and co-pastor of Holy Cross, a parish operated by the Capuchins for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
According to SNAP, the "Capuchin files" as the audit is referred to reveals Hahn sexually assaulted children at both St. Lawrence and the parish -- including what the Capuchin provincial twice refers to in its documents as "small" children -- not minors.
In it's release, SNAP says the Capuchin Provincial at the time, Ken Reinhart was at times praised by the audit for how he handled the revelations of abuse surfacing in the press in 1992, Reinhart's "subsequent handling of Hahn’s case is appalling and unforgivable."
"Reinhart and the Capuchins, according to the file, in order to avoid 'scandal,' aided and abetted Hahn’s secret interstate flight to Washington State and provided upkeep for over a year for a man they considered to be untreatable, unrepentant, and clearly dangerous to small children. Reinhart, as the audit points out, never notified either the St. Lawrence student body, alumni or the Mt. Calvary parish of what they knew about Hahn, much less report him to the police. "
SNAP says this cover up went on from 1992 - 1995 and onwards.
SNAP says because of the cover up, in which Hahn was reportedly "protected, coddled and supported by Reinhart and the Capuchins" -- anyone involved in the case deserves condemnation.
SNAP refers to an instance in 1992 when the Capuchins released an "independent" report and "misled the public," according to SNAP.
Additionally, SNAP reports there is evidence of documents on the Capuchins in Detroit that have not been obtained by auditors -- and SNAP accuses the Capuchins of destroying some documentation before the audit.
"It looks like significant evidence has been destroyed over recent years by Capuchin authorities. That has to be investigated. These auditors are not done," Isely said.
SNAP also says the voice of the victims in the audit documents seems muted -- saying: "The experience, trauma and horror undergone by children and their families is hard to find or hear in the report. (For a 2004 independent victim report based on Capuchin documents that does include victim testimony go here.)"
SNAP is critical of how the Capuchins have treated their victims -- which they say is also a criticism of the auditors. SNAP says: "The report shows that the Capuchins spent eight times more on their lawyers defending mostly guilty sex offenders and officials than on providing restitution to the victims they harmed."
"That's a really important part of why this is significant, because it really validates what victims went through not only as they were being assaulted, but the cover up and how they were treated," Isely said.
The SNAP statement ends with a list of five tasks SNAP would like to see accomplished by the Capuchins as a follow up to the audit:
Isely says for the Province to voluntarily commission the audit is a good first step.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPwisconsin.com and SNAPnetwork.org.