Victim: GOP candidate needs to ‘come to Jesus’ and blast sex abuse

By David Edwards
Thursday, September 30, 2010 13:24 EDT
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A victim of pedophilia is calling on a Senate candidate from Wisconsin to speak out against the Catholic church diocese where his abuse occurred.

Ron Johnson is vying for Sen. Russ Feingold’s job but hit a snag Monday when video surfaced of him testifying against a bill, which was later defeated, that would have given additional rights to children who were victims of abuse by public and private organizations.

In his diary at Daily Kos, Jud Lounsbury wrote:

Johnson was there to oppose the so-call Child Victims Bill, which would have made it easier to go after child predators. Under Wisconsin current law, many children do not come forward until after the statute of limitations has expired– this law would have made exceptions in such circumstances.

From the Green Bay Diocese Finance Council perspective, this meant that many more child victims of predator priests would come forward and that they would be forced to deal with more law suits. And more law suits mean spending more money, which Johnson and the Finance Council obviously opposed.

Usually, though, such institutions will try to kill such legislation quietly behind the scenes. Rarely do we see someone like Johnson defend such an unseemly position.

As a part of his testimony, Johnson asked, “I think its a valid question to ask if the employer of the perpetrator should also be severely damaged, possibly destroyed, in a legitimate desire for justice?”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has accused officials in the Green Bay diocese of covering up sex crimes.

According to the Green Bay diocese, as of 2004, 51 clergy were determined by church authorities to have assaulted children over the past several decades, 18 of them Norbertine clerics, which makes the Green Bay diocese one of the highest concentrations of clerical offenders in the country.

SNAP leaders have repeatedly called on the Green Bay diocese to release the records, identities and settlement locations of all 51 clergy, and any clergy identified since 2004 to have sexually assaulted or abused children. Bishop David Zubik, during his brief tenure as bishop, repeatedly refused the group’s request. The diocese also continues to house and hide in undisclosed locations an unknown number of clergy who have molested children.

Documents were also released this year from the Norbertine religious order, headquartered in the diocese and under the supervision of the Green Bay bishop, detailing their policy of hiding and transferring known sex offenders.

After SNAP promised a press conference demanding that Johnson call on the diocese to be more transparent, the candidate released a statement.

Johnson’s campaign released a statement in which the Republican candidate called on diocese officials to “provide the utmost transparency,” saying it would help answer any lingering questions from child-abuse victims and others.

SNAP spokesman Peter Isely said he approved of Johnson’s sentiment but said Johnson should also have told the diocese to stop blocking the release of the names of other clergy members accused of abuse.

Todd Merryfield was a victim of abuse at the hands of a priest in the Green Bay diocese when he was younger. Merryfield reacted Wednesday to the revelations that Johnson had testified against the Child Victims Act.

“I found out about everything last night near about 10:00,” Merryfield told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. “I’ve been a huge Johnson supporter since he announced his candidacy, and I’ll tell you, last night, I was — I was really — I was taken aback at his position on this.”

“If it wasn’t so tragic, Keith, it would be laughable,” he said.

Merryfield called Johnson’s latest call for transparency “a little light.”

“Well, gee, the Green Bay diocese has been talking transparency for quite sometime now. And there are — there are 51 individuals out there that they refuse to release the identities of that have had allegations against them. They may be active clergy members out in the community — somebody may be being abused as we speak right now and we don’t know,” Merryfield continued.

“To come out with this — this weak response of, you know, just — that they need to come out with complete transparency, that doesn’t show the outrage that I would expect from someone in his position on something that is so critical as this Child Victims Act,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity for Mr. Johnson to come out — and for lack of a better term — have his come to Jesus moment and say, ‘You know what? I reconsider what I stated in that testimony and I am going to be very forceful and do whatever I can to make the Catholic diocese or the Green Bay diocese come through and do the right thing,’” said Merryfield.

This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Sept. 29, 2010.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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