ST. PAUL, Minn. — As part of its ongoing efforts to address issues related to clergy sexual misconduct, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is releasing information related to priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors in the archdiocese.
The information can be found in The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper, which can be found online at http://thecatholicspirit.com, and on a special page titled “Disclosures Regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors” on the archdiocese’s website, www.archspm.org.
In his column this week in The Catholic Spirit, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt said the disclosure is part of the archdiocese’s safe environment efforts, which he hopes “will contribute to the healing process for victims and others who have been harmed, and serve to protect God’s children and foster trust in the church.”
The disclosure includes the following information: the cleric’s name; his year of birth and age; year of ordination; if deceased, the year he died; the cleric’s prior assignments; the date of his removal from ministry and current status; and the city and state where he presently resides.
The information being released is mostly related to reported incidents that occurred between the mid-1950s and 1980s, the archdiocese said in a Dec. 2 statement. Most of the men identified have been previously identified in media reports. All of them have been permanently removed from ministry or are deceased.
The disclosures are not intended to be final, Archbishop Nienstedt said in his column.
“We are currently engaged in a comprehensive review of clergy files and the list will be updated as additional announcements are made,” he said.
The current action follows a pledge in November by Archbishop Nienstedt to release the names of priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against them after getting court permission. The archdiocese sought and received that approval from a Ramsey County judge at a Dec. 2 hearing.
The order by Judge John Van de North to release the information modifies a protective order preventing the disclosure that had been in place since 2009 as part of a lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court.
During the hearing, archdiocesan attorney Tom Wieser said the archdiocese was prepared to release the names of the 30 priests who had assignments in the archdiocese and substantiated claims against them of sexually abusing a minor – those for which there is reasonable grounds to believe that the reported abuse occurred.
The 30 include 29 clergy on the original list of 33 names sealed by the 2009 court order plus Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, who was criminally convicted of sexual abuse of a minor earlier this year. He was permanently removed from ministry in 2012 but has not been laicized.
Van de North, however, said the archdiocese must file information about all 33 priests with the court by Dec. 17. If the archdiocese would choose not to provide some of the names, it would need to file a detailed explanation to explain why, he said.
The archdiocese chose to publish information for the four additional clergymen in the interest of transparency and to comply with the order.
The list of 33 was originally compiled by the archdiocese in 2003 to fulfill a request by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which published a national study of clergy sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002. The study was commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board, which collaborates with the bishops in preventing the sexual abuse of minors by persons who serve the church.
The disclosure of names is part of a comprehensive set of actions the archdiocese is taking to address issues associated with clergy sexual misconduct in our archdiocese.
The archdiocese has retained Kinsale Management Consulting — founded by Kathleen McChesney, a former high-level official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former head of what is now the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — to conduct a third-party review of its clergy files.
Additionally, an independent Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, announced in October, is conducting a full review of the archdiocese’s policies and practices related to clergy sexual misconduct.
“Our goals are to protect the young and vulnerable, care for victims of abuse, and restore trust among the laity, as well as our clergy who are serving honorably,” the archdiocese said in a statement Dec. 3.
During the court hearing, archdiocesan attorney Tom Wieser said Archbishop Nienstedt “wants the healing to begin.”
“Those who have been victimized by these horrible crimes have been deeply hurt,” the archdiocesan statement said. “It is our hope that disclosure of these names can assist victims in their healing process.”