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More than 100 church-related abuse claims filed with DOJ

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Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announces a state investigation into clergy abuse in April.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has received more than 100 reports of abuse by clergy and faith leaders across the state since announcing a statewide investigation in April, the law enforcement agency said Tuesday.

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.

The reports received by the agency to date include allegations of abuse and also relate to how churches and religious organizations responded to abuse, DOJ said in a news release.

The reports concern clergy and faith leaders of multiple religious organizations, the agency said. They also include some reports of abuse not related to any religious organization and some reports include claims against multiple abusers.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat who is up for reelection next year, announced the investigation in April. Survivors of abuse, their friends and family, or anyone with knowledge of how a religious organization responded to allegations of abuse have been encouraged to contact the justice department with information.

Kaul’s office said “each report is carefully reviewed by a multidisciplinary team comprised of law enforcement, victim services and a prosecutor” and that some cases could be referred to local law enforcement.

It also said victims could receive referrals for services through the agency’s Office of Crime Victim Services.

A DOJ spokesperson did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for the number of referrals made to law enforcement or for victims’ services, or for how many people DOJ has working on the clergy abuse review.

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, the diocese 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.”

It went on to say that it cooperates with local law enforcement when abuse allegations are made against church officials.

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

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has refused to turn over documents requested by state investigators undertaking the probe, saying the records are sealed and that Kaul lacks the authority to initiate such an investigation.

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