Posts Tagged Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Catholic clergy sexual abuse: moving toward accountability?

Recent events revolving around Catholic clergy sexual abuse suggest the proverbial tide may be turning in the scandal from the Church’s knee-jerk closing of institutional ranks to action against perpetrators and abettors, both by the Church and civil authorities.

A marked example of how far the institutional response has progressed toward accountability is retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick stepping down from active ministry after the Vatican determined that allegations of sexual abuse were found “credible and substantiated.” The abuse occurred nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. Nothing additional was known about the incident at the time of this writing, but McCarrick is likely the first cardinal to step aside because of sexual abuse.

Another obvious evidence of a change in the Church’s attitude is the change in Pope Francis. Over just a few weeks he has shifted from calling Chilean abuse survivors’ allegations “calumny” to removing three bishops, after he met with Chilean abuse victims and Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna turned in his report. Chilean police and prosecutors also raided Catholic Church offices in the Osorno Diocese of Bishop Juan Barros. Scicluna and his colleague, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, have returned to Chile to help ensure “adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors.”

The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s response has been a partnership with the Survivors of those Abused by Priests on programs to protect children. To date, SNAP has been so critical of the Church for its handling of the scandal that it has become anathema to most bishops, particularly in the United States.

Throughout the scandal’s history, many Catholics have taken a jaundiced view of survivor settlements. Yet, in St. Paul-Minneapolis, which rose out of bankruptcy only recently with a $210 million settlement with survivors, parishioners are actually contributing to the settlement. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Father Daniel Griffith at Our Lady of Lourdes. “We’re all part of the archdiocese, and we all need to be part of the solution.”

States’ attorneys general have long tried to pry open the scandal, with limited results, but momentum is building, most visibly in Pennsylvania. A report is due at the end of this month from a grand jury investigation covering six dioceses (Greensburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburg — As of this writing, the Pennsylvania Supreme court has tempoarily blocked release of the report). Those close to the report tout conclusions as the worst ever. Legislators there are hoping the report finally will prompt changes in the state’s statute of limitation for sexual assault, which devastating grand jury reports in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and Philadelphia Archdiocese were unable to achieve; although the 2011 report in Philadelphia resulted in the convictions of two priests.

Where the law allows, national governments have investigated institutional abuse of minors. The Church has figured highly in these investigations, which, for example, have taken place in Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and The Netherlands, and a statutory inquiry in the United Kingdom and Wales is ongoing. At least in Australia, the inquiry has led to changes in the law that include attempting to force priests to break the seal of confession where clergy sexual abuse of a minor is involved.

Speaking of Australia, the scandal has ensnared two highly placed prelates there. Cardinal George Pell is now standing trial on multiple counts of historic sexual abuse, while on leave from his position as Vatican treasurer. Archbishop Philip Wilson’s trial for covering up clergy abuse recently resulted in his conviction, and he is to be sentenced next month.

Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron is now appealing his Vatican conviction earlier this spring for “certain accusations” of sexual abuse of minors. He has been removed from office. The Church and lawyers there are attempting to settle more than 170 civil suits brought by abuse survivors (184 people in Guam have said they were abused by clergy or others associated with the Church).

Predicting where all this will lead is risky. These events, however, are not the same as the apologies and promises that too often in the past have not resulted in change. They are examples of the Church and civil authorities actually taking action.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of Australia’s bishop conference told Cruxnow.com that the atmosphere today in the Vatican is totally different than in 2002. Now, “there is a determination to work with all the local churches in really trying to, first of all, understand the phenomenon and the scale and the complexity, and then to tie action, not just wring the hands or have another discussion, but to actually take action … There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there is room for encouragement.”

As Voice of the Faithful was recently quoted in a PennLive.com article on the Pennsylvania scandal, perhaps “we’ve come to a point where the Church has realized this cannot go on.”

(For many more examples of how the tide may be turning on the clergy abuse scandal see Voice of the Faithful’s most recent “Focus” news roundup column.)

Reprinted from Voice of the Faithful’s In the Vineyard e-newsletter.

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More than 800 sex abuse claims filed under Minnesota law / Star Tribune

More than 850 child sex abuse claims, including about 500 against Minnesota Catholic clergy, have been made in the past three years under a landmark Minnesota law sunsetting this week that allowed victims of older abuse cases to have their day in court.

“The Minnesota Child Victims Act, which rocked the Catholic Church to its core, set a May 25, 2016, deadline for filing older claims. Victims’ lawyers are rushing to the finish line, expecting a last-minute surge in claims …

“In the three years since the law’s passage, the local church has witnessed an archbishop’s resignation, two bankruptcies and the public naming of more than 100 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse …

“The speed and scope of the abuse claims underscores the pent-up demand for justice for sexual behavior ‘that has created an enormous cost to the victims, to their families and to society,’ said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, the chief Senate author of the law.

Latz said. ‘If [the church] had dealt with the problem up front, [it] never would have been in this position.'”

By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Catholics, community react to priest’s arrival amid sex abuse backdrop / Kalamazoo Gazette/MCLive.com

” … When Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated three Masses at St. Philip Catholic Church this weekend (Jan. 17), he was merely helping out his old friend Fr. John Fleckenstein, who is ill. He plans to continue to help as needed for about a six months …

“Nienstedt may have passed muster with church leaders. But many parents, community members and former victims of sexual abuse are angered by the arrival of the archbishop who is embroiled in one of the ugliest clergy sex scandals in the country, at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

By Rosemary Parker, Kalamazoo Gazette on MLive.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Archdiocese of St. Paul settles complaint on child abuse / The New York Times

The Roman Catholic archdiocese here has reached an agreement with prosecutors in a civil case accusing church officials of failing to protect children from sexual abuse.

“The unusual settlement, announced Friday in a Ramsey County courtroom, calls for more transparency when claims of child sexual abuse are raised and would allow prosecutors and courts to monitor the church’s progress on such matters for three years …

“In June, Mr. Choi filed six criminal charges, misdemeanors with maximum fines of $3,000 each, accusing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis of failing to protect children from sexual abuse. Both sides said they continued to discuss the charges, which are pending, even as the deal was struck on the civil petition that accompanied them.

“Though not unprecedented, a criminal prosecution of an entire diocese is rare. The charges filed here are among the most severe actions taken by prosecutors against a diocese, amounting to a broad, stinging critique of how the institution here handled abuse cases even after changes were announced.”

By Todd Nelson and Monica Davey, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story, which contains links to earlier stories from The New York Times about criminal charges regarding clergy sexual abuse filed against the St. Paul Archdiocese.

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Video divides Twin Cities archdiocese, abuse victims / The Wall Street Journal

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and representatives for several hundred alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse are at odds over a seven-minute video that victims want to play following Mass in all 187 of the archdiocese’s parishes.

“The video, in which three alleged abuse victims appear, urges others to come forward and file claims against the archdiocese ahead of an Aug. 3 deadline. Filing formal claims is a critical step for those seeking to share a court-brokered settlement with the archdiocese and its insurance carriers.

“Lawyers for alleged victims have asked Judge Robert Kressel of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Paul, Minn., to approve a motion that would send the video to all parishes and request that they play the video ‘in connection with each Mass service’ on July 11 and July 12. The request stops short of asking the judge to explicitly order parishes to play the video.”

By Tom Corrigan, The Wall Street Journal — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Minnesota archdiocese is charged in abuse scandal / The New York Times

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges Friday (June 5) against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

“The charges and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say that from 2008 to 2010, when they were underage, a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them.

“The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by US authorities against a Catholic diocese.”

By Mitch Smith, The New York Times, in The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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New documents show falsehoods in Nienstedt testimony / Minnesota Public Radio

Documents made public Monday (Aug. 10) in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis show that Archbishop John Nienstedt made false statements under oath in April about his knowledge of a priest accused of child sexual abuse.”

By Madelein Baran, Minnesota Public Radio — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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