The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Monday, December 16, 2013

Childproof 48: Archbishop Nienstedt and His Lawyer




Page 48
  

Joseph F. Kueppers
Vice Chancellor
Civil Affairs
St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn.
Dear Bishop Gaydos:

What happens when you tell your pal
Archbishop John C. Nienstedt about a
predatory priest?

 
Not much.  Just like your operation
in Jefferson City, we have a mirror
image of subterfuge and secrecy in
the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
 
In late November one of our friends —
Paul — telephoned the Twin Cities
Chancery to admonish Nienstedt
about a predatory priest he has
allowed to resume a career as a
local morality crusader, preacher,
and teacher.
 
But no one Paul spoke with at Nienstedt's Summit Avenue office was receptive, agreeable, or concerned about this man or those he has victimized.
 
Archbishop Nienstedt’s personal secretary, Deborah K. Thielen,
seemed to be offended by the details of our friend’s message,
dismissing the conversation with nervous laughter and mock
humor.  She also refused to confirm any details of our
communication or contact information before disconnecting
the call. 
 

Cover-up Artists:  The unfolding pedophile priest scandal in the Archdiocese
of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn., forced the resignation three senior church
officials, including the Rev. Kevin McDonough (left), vicar general (1991-2009);
Andrew J.
Eisenzimmer, vice chancellor-civil affairs (2005-2013); and the
Rev. Peter A. Laird, vicar general (2009-2013).

Paul called back — refusing to be dismissed out of hand — to
speak with the Rev. Michael Krenik, Nienstedt’s confidential secretary.  Krenik responded professionally in a courteous monotone with no sense of empathy, as if he had been assigned latrine duty.
 
Then Paul received voice mail on 18 November 2013.  The caller identified himself as Joe Kueppers and referenced the problem priest by name:  we will call him “Father X.”

At first we assumed Joseph F. Kueppers was a staff member with the archdiocese’s victims assistance program.  A psychologist, perhaps, or a social worker seeking additional information about the matter. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/calendario-romano-priest-calendar_n_4433489.html
Father X or just another pretty face.
Instead we were confronted by an
attorney with the improbable title
of Vice Chancellor for Civil Affairs.
Our initial response:  Why would a
lawyer masquerade as a caregiver
or clergyman?  This job usually
goes to a priest and, occasionally,
a nun.
 
We waited a fortnight, approximately, to return the call and use the wonderful innovation of the speaker phone. 
 
We also discovered Kueppers’ true agenda:  Nienstedt’s muscle — combative, hostile, impatient.
 
“What do you want?” Kueppers asked outright.  “Who do you work for?” he demanded, a bit hoarse in the throat.
 
Then the follow-up question: “Why are you doing this?”
 
Paul’s reply was straightforward:  “I’m returning your call.”
 
A moment of silence and still no response, so we moved the next chessman:  “You have the information and personnel records?”
 
More silence.
 
“I have the file here,” Kueppers finally replied.
 
“Then you have the names of the victim’s, their healthcare records, the names of the facilities where they received medical treatment, and the cost associated with their healthcare.”
 
Silence, again.
 
“I’m still here,” Kueppers said.
 
“Then you have enough to work with,” Paul replied.
 
More silence.  And then Paul decided to hang up the phone.
 
Kueppers’ disingenuousness is to be expected.


A Hierarchy of Criminals:  The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn., has
been governed by a criminal hierarchy for more than 40 years.  The current
management, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn and his successor, Archbishop John C.
Nienstedt, represent the current generation engaged in the exploitation of
children for the sake of protecting the predators they employ and damaging
the reputations of those who do good works..

In 2005, as co-founder and public policy advisor for the Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (MNSNAP), we learned that Archbishop Harry J. Flynn (Nienstedt’s immediate predecessor) was shielding a prominent priest who had been cited with multiple boundary violations with vulnerable adult females.  Two of his victims received medical care at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, Albany, Ohio.

According to Wellspring’s mission statement, the retreat is:
 

“A residential counseling center specializing in
the treatment of individuals who have suffered in
abusive groups, whether religious or secular; these
are often called cults. Our program is also effective
for those who have been in coercive relationships,
and those who have experienced professional abuse
and/or sexual exploitation from therapists, doctors,
clergy, and teachers.”
 
One of the predator’s victims, whom we will call “Dora Sinclaire,” described Wellspring in September 2005 as follows:
 
“Wellspring is a treatment place for people who have gone through things similar to me. It’s a place for
healing and to put things into perspective.  When one
has experienced any type of abuse from someone who is supposed to represent the Church, it often taints their image of God and leaves them feeling lost about faith, morals, life in general.  This place helps people to put things into perspective and take their life back, to deal with the shame, the guilt, self-blame, fear of being
taken advantage of again, etc.  I will be there for two
weeks. I’m really looking forward to it and hope it will
help a lot.”
 
On 1 September 2005, “Dora Sinclaire” informed us:
 
“Just wanted to let you know that I asked the diocese
to pay for a treatment program to help me heal from what happened to me by Fr. X.  They paid for it in full, ($5,000) and are also paying for my airfare.  They obviously know that he is a problem.”
 
“Dora Sinclaire” sought spiritual direction from this archdiocesan
predator and participated in retreats that he organized on a regular basis for area Catholics.  “Ms. Sinclaire’s” spiritual advisor specialized in an amalgam of Carmelite devotionals (with a hint of Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross) and charismatic renewal.  In private sessions, he forced himself on each victim with the proviso that her blouse and/or brassiere may come off when
imbued by the Holy Spirit.  So much for the Pentecost experience of Tongues of Fire.
 
We have this description of an event published in a newsletter about one of this priest’s retreats:
 
“Historically we have given our members a cross upon
pledging. This change is being made because one of
our active members had a vision of the Lord in which
He made it known that the gift we should give our
members who pledge should be the crown of thorns.
The member who received the vision described it
as follows:
 
“I ‘saw’ Jesus standing nearby. He held out the crown
of thorns and reminded me of His suffering when He
paid the price for our sins. He then said that at the
moment we pledge that the Crown of Thorns would
unite us and would mark us as uniquely His; as fellow
sharers in His suffering. It would also be the means of
blessing our journey before Him with great graces in
behalf of others.”
 
Archbishop Flynn did not remove this priest from active duty despite complaints about his behavior.  Instead, he publicly backed this predator’s evangelization activities.  Flynn attended this priest’s retreats, celebrated the Mass with those attending these events, and meeting individually with those who participated. 

Jennifer Haselberger
Vice Chancellor
Canonical Affairs
St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn.
By 2006, Flynn was forced to give way
and transfer the predator to hospital
chaplaincy work and deny him the
privilege to conduct retreats, preach,
or lecture on theological matters (his
specialty).  We do not know if he engaged
in similar behavior with the hospital staff
or patients as he did with those he
counseled on matters spiritual.
 
And so, now, we wonder why Kueppers responded with hostility when we brought “Father X” to his attention.
 
Kueppers shared a law practice with
his brother for 29 years in St. Paul
before joining Nienstedt’s team
full-time in January.  Nine months
later, t
he Chancery was in chaos due to senior management’s refusal to cooperate with law enforcement and continued protection of child predators.  One would think that, Kueppers, an astute attorney as any, should have been attuned to the scandal that the criminal culture of his superiors has cultivated in the Minnesota for more than 30 years.
 
But, then, Kueppers is tightly linked with the Archdiocese. He is an alumnus of St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights; earned an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Minnesota; and received his law degree from Hamline University.  He also is a graduate of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute.  In 2007 Nienstedt acknowledge Kueppers contribution to the Twin Cities organization as recipient of The Catholic Spirit’s Leading with Faith Award.
 
Trolls:  Archbishop John C.
Nienstedt and Harry J.
Flynn,
his predecessor,
knew that Jonathan Shelley
is a predator prior to his
ordination in 1995; and
his implication in two
cases in 2003 and 2012.
Still Nienstedt and Flynn
protected Shelley and
advanced his career
within the Archdiocese
of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Kueppers succeeded Andrew J. Eisenzimmer, who had been a Nienstedt confidant since 2005.   In October, Eisenzimmer was implicated as an accessory in a child pornography case involving another predatory priest employed by the Archdiocese:  the
Rev. Jonathan Shelley, 52, pastor
of
St. Jude of the Lake, Mahtomedi
(2004); and
formerly at St. John the
Baptist Church
, Hugo (2012). 

The pornography allegations surfaced
in 2003.  
Shelley was pastor at St. Jude
of the Lake parish in Mahtomedi when
the porn was found. He was temporarily
suspended because of “an allegation
of inappropriate activity,” according
to a parish letter to members dated
24 September 2004.


Eisenzimmer resigned with the Rev.
Peter A. Laird, Vicar General 2009-
2013, after more court testimony
in October revealed that both men conspired to protect this ordained sexual predator.  That testimony, provided by Jennifer Haselberger, vice chancellor for canonical affairs, discovered the evidence and contacted the St. Paul Police Department.


According to Ms. Haselberger’s testimony, nine years after Shelley’s activities were first reported to the Chancery, Nienstedt drafted a letter to the Vatican, dated 29 May 2012, asking whether pornography found on Shelley’s personal computer could “expose the archdiocese, as well as myself, to criminal prosecution?”  A copy of the letter was provided to St. Paul police by Ms. Haselberger.   

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect-Congregation of
the Doctrine of the Faith
2005-2012
Archdiocese-San Francisco
1995-2005
The letter, addressed to William Cardinal Levada, provides more detail about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of archdiocese officials regarding the discovery of Shelley’s computer (more than 1,300 images were examined by
the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but St. Paul police allowed the Archdiocese to select
the images for review with additional
files held back by church officials). 
Nienstedt adds that pornographic
images were found on the Rev.
Shelley’s computer hard drive
before he became archbishop
in an effort to minimize
personal responsibility.  


A representative of the Archdiocese said the correspondence was never mailed to Levada, according to media reports.  Therefore, Nienstedt was able include a line in the 2012 correspondence that he was “unable to comment as to why this matter was not reported to you at that time,” as required by a papal order of 2001.
 
Nienstedt’s correspondence to Levada also highlights the fact that before Shelley’s 1995 ordination Archbishop Flynn was
aware of:
 

“Concerns were brought to the attention of the archdiocese regarding then seminarian/Deacon Shelley and his interactions with teenage male retreatants at Dunrovin Retreat Center. No sexual contact between Father Shelley and the young men was alleged, but a fellow counselor at the Retreat Center reported that Father Shelley wrestled with the boys in the swimming pool and otherwise had difficulties maintaining proper boundaries between himself and the (boys).

“This was investigated, determined to be a matter
of poor judgment, and Father Shelley was allowed
to proceed in formation.”

Other events leading to questions about Shelley include his allowing an 18-year-old parishioner to live in the parish offices during a dispute with his parents.


Serving Time:  the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer is serving a five-year sentence for
molesting two boys and possession of child pornography.  Archbishop Harry J.
Flynn and Archbishop John C. Nienstedt were well-aware of his proclivities
and, yet, failed to protect the children of Minnesota as duty and the law require.
 
Nienstedt, Flynn, and Co. also protected the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, 50, who was accused in 2012 of sexually abusing children.  The archdiocese knew for more than a decade that Wehmeyer had issues with sexual compulsion yet kept him in the ministry and failed to warn parishioners, according to a report by Minnesota Public Radio, which cited Haselberger and dozens of other interviews and documents. Wehmeyer is now serving a five-year prison term for sexually abusing two boys and possessing child pornography.  Wehmeyer, who studied industrial design and technology at Northern Michigan University, was ordained in 2000 at the age of 36.

One would think that Kueppers would reconsider his attitude toward victims of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters.  But that is not the case.

Nienstedt, Flynn, and Co. promote a warped and radical view of what it means to protect children and the vulnerable.  Nienstedt would rather attempt to rehabilitate “Father X” as a preacher and teacher rather than follow the law.  Apparently eight years out of the limelight is enough penance for someone who preys on the vulnerable, which allows parish bulletins to announce “Father X”
is back.

As a result, Nienstedt continues be just another depraved and quarrelsome player in this hierarchy of criminals.  His pedophile mindset reveals a lack of judgment or interest is serving justice:  what we call doing the right thing.  Instead he nurtures a deep-rooted culture of abuse that allows his staff to brandish a venom that antagonizes and tortures so many in the community.

Nienstedt’s credibility is no longer in question.  He is proven to be a man without integrity or honor.

Kueppers’ association with such public figures is as sad as it is sordid.  But, then, even unspeakable criminal behavior has access to legal strategy and image making:  a picture-perfect scenario for someone like Chris Christie or Anthony Weiner (aka Carlos Danger) and now the game plan of the American bishops. 

Finding excuses and concealing information of a crime tend toward a prison sentence.  But we doubt is anything like that will happen.  Someone will cut a deal or decline to pursue charges.  No one will go to jail.  And this phase of the 40-year-old Minnesota scandal will continue to fester a little longer.


Meanwhile, we weep and feel not the dint of pity.


Further Reading:

 
We appealed to Archbishop Harry J. Flynn in 2001 to do
the right thing:  protect children and vulnerable adults
from sexual predators, as this St. Paul Pioneer-Press
column points out.  But the Flynn, and his successor,
John C. Nienstedt, continue to attack the very people
they promised to protect.
 






Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Childproof 47: Nienstedt Marks Fourth Decade of Child Sex Cover-Up with Renewed Vigor in Minnesota




Page 47

  
Dear Bishop Gaydos:

The 2002 USCCB Charter has
become a public relations
boilerplate of gobbledygook,
particularly in the Archdiocese
of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
When you and Harry J. Flynn were
appointed by the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) in 2002 to draft the
so-called Charter for the
Protection of Children and
Young People
you stated publicly
that the American hierarchy has
not been faithful to its vision.

Ten years later we’ve discovered that
John C. Nienstedt, Flynn’s successor
as archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis
set aside this re-vision to renew the
effort to protect pedophile priests
and cover up the sex crimes of other
clerical predators.

Despite decades old promises to do the right thing,  it is evident that the next generation of American bishops prefers to maintain the status quo of this culture of violence.  And we are able to acknowledge with certitude that Nienstedt is aligned with this conspiracy of silence now well into its fourth decade.

As noted throughout this report, Thy Child’s Face has identified
Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York, as the unequivocal leader
of this new gang of rogue bishops.  Nienstedt, a competent
lieutenant, is embedded within this group, which includes the
new president of the USCCB, Joseph E. Kurz, archbishop of Louisville, Ky. , and his Knoxville, Tenn., successor, Richard F. Stika (Kurz succeeded Anthony J. O’Connell in 1999; Stika, like  O’Connell, is a product of the St. Louis, Mo., seminary system); Robert J. Carlson, archbishop of St. Louis and the man who helped John R. Roach (1995-2008), Flynn’s predecessor, organize the Twin Cities’ cover-up in the 1980’s.  The Minnesota influence also extends to the diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, with
the 2008 promotion of Richard E. Pates after his tour of duty with Flynn as an auxiliary bishop (2001-2008). 


But an interesting side note is that in 1983 Roach promoted Carlson to become a Twin Cities auxiliary bishop.  Paul V. Dudley, bishop
of Sioux Falls, S.D. (1978-1995) and a former Roach auxiliary, participated in Carlson’s  1983 consecration ceremony.  Dudley resigned as bishop of Sioux Falls after denying six separate allegations child molestation were made public in 1994.  Carlson, then, succeeded Dudley (1995-2005).  Archbishop Flynn cleared Dudley of the charges.



Thy Child’s Face notes frequently that the leadership of the American
hierarchy seems to operate as criminal conspiracy network:  a gangland
confederacy bent on protecting predatory priests and employees who
work within the system.  The Archdiocese of the St. Paul-Minneapolis
is a major link in this power grid of corruption, which is now nearly
midway through its fourth 10-year cycle of abuse.  At the helm we’ve
had (top row, left to right) John R. Roach (1975-1995); Harry J. Flynn
(1995-2008); and John C. Nienstedt (appointed in 2008).  The henchmen
for this band of brothers are (bottom row, left to right):  Robert J. Carlson,
auxiliary bishop (1983-1994) and, currently, archbishop of St. Louis, Mo.;
the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general (1989-2009); and the Rev. Peter A.
Laird (2009-2013).  Carlson was consecrated bishop by Roach and a former
St. Paul auxiliary bishop, Paul V. Dudley.  As bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D.
(1978-1995), Dudley denied six public allegations of abuse.  Nonetheless,
Dudley resigned and Carlson was named his successor (1995-2004).
 
The USCCB officially began “addressing the evil of sexual abuse of minors” by priests at its June 1992 meeting, with the publication of Restoring Trust in November 1993.  By 2002 the American bishops had failed utterly to meet the benchmarks and standards that they trumpeted for so many years.  This epic fault now has morphed into its current phase, which, to date, has costs parishioners in the United States $2.5 billion in reparation, medical costs, and legal fees, according to the USAToday; and $11 million between 2003 and 2012 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
 
The actions of Flynn and Carlson, especially in these cases, led to a 2003 tally of settlement and legal expenses estimated at $8.8 million for the years 1989-2003.  Archbishop Flynn raided $3.1 million from a priest retirement fund labeled “Clergy Benefit Fund”; and $700,000 from a fund earmarked for charity and social services for settlement awards.  An insurance policy paid legal expenses estimated at $5 million.  So essentially Nienstedt and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have a current tab running at $20 million (est.).

As the New York Times noted in its 2 May 2006 story entitled, Pensions in Peril Over Church Exemptions:

“The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis revealed in a rare
public discussion of its accounts i
n 2003 that it had tapped into
an 82-year-old pension fund for priests to help pay legal
settlements and other costs involving sexual abuse claims,
something the pension law would not allow a nonreligious
organization to do.  The archdiocese decided to use the money
that way, it said, because it had set up another priests’ pension
fund in 1969, reducing the importance of the older fund.

 
“James J. Keightley, former general counsel to the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation
, said he thought more such
problems would arise.  There have been a significant number
of plans that have gotten their I.R.S. ruling letters and have
opted out of P.B.G.C. coverage,’ he said. Every plan that
loses insurance protection is at risk.’  He . . . now practice[s]
at the Washington firm of Keightley and Ashner [Harold J.
Ashner, a former assistant general counsel for legislation
and regulations at the pension agency].”


The morass of child molestation and the dismay over the deliberate inaction of clerics like Nienstedt and Flynn led to the 14 Articles of the so-called Charter.  But the document has suffered the same fate as the previous commitments of the USCCB. 

It is evident that Nienstedt and the next generation of American bishops have failed every Article except the four that are the most self-serving (Articles 9-12), despite the sentiment expressed in the preamble:
 
“The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and long-lasting . . . . We apologize . . . for the grave harm that has been inflicted . . . Let there now be no doubt . . . our obligation to protect children and young people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself.

Let us recap the failed promises made by Nienstedt and his colleagues: 

§  Outreach to victims/survivors and demonstrate a sincere
   commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being
   including counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups,
   and other social services (Article 1).
 

§  Prompt response to any allegation that sexual abuse of
   a minor has occurred (Article 2).
 

§  Forego confidentiality agreements except in cases where
   substantial reasons are brought forward by the victim/survivor
   and noted in the text of the agreement (Article 3).
 

§  Report allegations of sexual abuse of minors to the public
   authorities; and cooperate in their investigation in accord
   with the law of the jurisdiction in question.  In every instance,
   bishops will advise victims of their right to make a report to
   public authorities and will support this right (Article 4).
 

§  Concur that the priesthood or religious life is no place
   in for anyone who would harm the young (Article 5).
 

§  Maintain and enforce standards of ministerial behavior
   and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church
   personnel in positions of trust (Article 6).
 

§  Develop a communications policy that reflects a commitment
   to transparency and openness (Article 7).
 

§  Nurture the consistent application of these principles
   and provide a vehicle of accountability and assistance
   to the USCCB Office for Child and Youth Protection
   (Article 8).
 

§  Evaluate the background of all diocesan and parish
   personnel who have regular contact with minors:
   specifically, utilizing the resources of law enforcement
   and other community agencies.  In addition, they will
   employ adequate screening and evaluative techniques
   in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination
   in accordance with the USCCB Program of Priestly
   Formation
, 1993 (Article 13).
 

§  Bishops and religious superiors will provide, review,
   and acknowledge an accurate and complete description
   of any cleric’s record before an assignment, transfer,
   or residence is approved in another diocese within the
   United States, another country, or a religious order.
   This record will include any information in his background
   or service that would raise questions about his fitness for
   ministry in accordance with the USCCB and Conference
   of Major Superiors of Men Proposed Guidelines on the
   Transfer or Assignment of Clergy and Religious
, 1993
   (Article 14).
 


The printed word and spirit of the Charter changed little in  1993, 2003, and 2013.  But it appears that Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has never perused the text: 

“In the midst of this terrible crisis of sexual abuse of young people by priests and bishops and how it has been dealt with by bishops . . . we wish to affirm our concern especially with regard to issues related to effective consultation of the laity . . . . in decision making that affects their well-being.  We must increase our vigilance to prevent those . . . who . . . exploit the priesthood for their own immoral and criminal purposes from doing so.”


Daniel Berrigan, S.J. (left) and Philip Berrigan, S.S.J. (1923–2002),
were prosecuted and imprisoned for their social justice and
anti-war activities.  The Brothers Berrigan, who grew up in
Two Harbors, Minn., also were named to the FBI Most Wanted
List because of their peace and civil rights efforts.  Phillip
Berrigan was nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Daniel, aged 92, continues to address injustice based on the
coalition he formed with his brother and Thomas Merton,
O.C.S.O., the famed Trappist monk and author of The Seven
Story Mountain.
  We have to wonder why predatory priests
are able to escape justice so easily in light of the work these
two priests have accomplished.
So we think it appropriate to reprint of a column published in 2004 on the editorial page of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press advising Archbishop Flynn about his non-compliance issues with the Charter that he wrote.  Maybe Nienstedt will take the hint: 

Church is underreporting abuse by its clergy
St. Paul Pioneer Press ï 5 January 2004 ï Page 13-A

By Michael Wegs
Guest Columnist

Unlike the child molestation scandals that permeated the Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s and 1990s, the current scandal has forced bishops nationwide to disgorge data about the number of ordained pedophiles and their survivors/victims for public inspection.  No longer can the American hierarchy sweep the numerous crimes against children under the rug.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced last month that 33 priests sexually molested 69 children and minors over the past 50 years.  Three of Minnesota’s five other dioceses also have reported crime statistics:  Duluth, 18 priests, 42 survivors; St. Cloud, 26 priests, 49 survivors (1982-2003); Winona, 13 priests, 48 survivors.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (MNSNAP) applauds Archbishop Harry Flynn and his colleagues for taking this step at disclosure, albeit a small one.

SNAP established its Minnesota chapter in August 2002.  Since then more than 200 queries of clerical sexual abuse have been received from Minnesota residents.  More than 100 participants attended a Survivors Network Minnesota weekend seminar in January in St. Paul; and more than 200 attended a second weekend seminar in Minneapolis.  Today SNAP has more than 70 Minnesota members.  At least 12 members of the Minnesota chapter have lawsuits pending against the Archdiocese.

Given the statistics, SNAP believes Flynn and Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have underplayed the number of “credible” abuse allegations; and this failure ignores the transparency and accountability criteria outlined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  A truly responsible report of the scope of criminal activity by ordained sexual predators within the church in Minnesota would have been compiled by civil authorities from church personnel records at chancery offices.  But this is not the case.

Instead, the Archdiocese chose its own inspectors to draft the report of its criminal priests in conjunction with investigators selected by the USCCB.  Although former Maple Grove Police Chief Sherman Otto and former Plymouth Police Chief Richard Setter have enjoyed distinguished careers, they have failed to include even the simplest pertinent details such as the dates and locations of the crimes committed against the children of Minnesota.

An institutional body severely scarred by internal scandal cannot begin to recover without in-depth analysis and support.  For that reason alone, municipalities seek federal mediation and establish an independent citizen committee to investigate police misconduct.

Years ago priests like Daniel and Phillip Berrigan (Minnesota natives from Two Harbors) were arrested for protesting the war in Vietnam, racial injustice, and poverty.  They were accused of flaunting the rule of law as it governs a civil society. 

But this is this not the case with Minnesota’s bishops?  Is this not the case with St. John’s Abey in Collegeville where at least 13 Benedictine monks, who are admitted sexual predators, are not in prison and allowed to conduct retreats?  Is tis not the case with the Croiser Fathers in Shoreview, who continue to shield at least 11 priests and brothers from prosecution?

The Minnesota hierarchy could do no worse in establishing a truly independent investagatory body comprising laity, clergy, civil authorities, and SNAP survivors.  The bottom line is tha the bishops of Minnesota do not make law; their duty as American citizens is to obey the law by giving all allegations of sexual molestation the police and county attorneys to investigate.

Wegs, of Minneapolis, is public policy advisor for the Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests.