Letter to Attorney General-Elect Josh Kaul


Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Attorney General-Elect Kaul,

Back on August 21, I sent the e-mail below urging an investigation of clergy abuse in Wisconsin to both the current Attorney General and the Dane County District Attorney. I did not hear back from either of them about this issue. Since Pennsylvania released its report on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church, at least nine other states have decided to launch investigations (Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Wyoming). It is past time to do so here in Wisconsin. Our children and adult survivors deserve no less.

As a survivor and an activist in the survivor community I have heard too many stories of childhoods destroyed by molesters. It is far more damaging when the perpetrators are trusted adults such as priests, teachers, scout leaders, and others. I would be happy to speak further with you about this or any survivor issues you may wish to discuss. Thank you for your attention. Below is the e-mail I sent back in August:

Good afternoon,

With the recent release of the Grand Jury report in Pennsylvania implicating more than 300 priests of abusing more than 1,000 children (and likely far more), it seems that it is time to open a similar investigation here in Wisconsin. The Diocese of Milwaukee has already been in the news for the abuse of dozens of young people, but the same lens has not been applied to the Diocese of Madison. What the Pennsylvania Grand Jury (and others in New York and elsewhere) have shown is that there has been a culture of church superiors accepting and covering up crimes and improper behavior by priests under their authority. In every jurisdiction in which there has been an investigation or Grand Jury, evidence has shown crimes committed and covered up.

Throughout the world there have been cases of child molestation in Catholic and other churches for decades. This is bad enough, but in most of these cases the crimes have been covered up and priests moved to other parishes and allowed to continue preying on innocent children. There have been at least 11 cases of Madison diocesan priests being publicly accused of sexual abuse. In the most recent case, that of Father William Nolan, the church was less than forward about what it may have known about and when. It is time to make sure that any crimes that have been committed that are still within the statute of limitations are prosecuted to the full extent, including the crime of withholding information and covering up the crimes of others.

I don’t know what the process is for convening a Grand Jury, but am assuming that it must start with a District Attorney or the Attorney General of Wisconsin. I am copying both the Wisconsin Attorney General and the Dane County District Attorney on this e-mail and am pleading with one or both of you to embark upon this path of justice for any victims that are out there and still holding onto their secrets. The more time that passes the likelier that perpetrators will not be brought to justice due to statutes of limitation.

I am an adult survivor of child sex abuse (not by a priest) and know the pain and scars that can result from this. I recently read about a Cardinal in New York holding children culpable by stating that by the age of seven they know right from wrong. I also saw and responded to a letter written by Madison’s Bishop Morlino that laid the blame for all child abuse in the church at the feet of Wisconsin’s gay population instead of looking inward and cleaning house. It is time to make sure that house is clean.

My understanding is also that Grand Juries are secret, so I understand there may already be something in place or you may not be able to share with me if you do convene one. I simply ask that you consider doing so if it hasn’t already been considered.

Thank you for your consideration.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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