Lawyers for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona are seeking to block the depositions of Archbishop John Nienstedt and two other priests and halt the ordered release of the names of priests accused of child sexual abuse since 2004.
A Ramsey County judge has ordered the archbishop to be deposed on the policies and practices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on the handling of abuse allegations, including whether the archdiocese followed its own policies.
Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Thursday then immediately slammed Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for what he called a "defective and deficient" response to allegations that top archdiocese leaders covered up clergy sex abuse. Choi strenuously disagrees.
The document -- a formal decree signed by Nienstedt to comply with church law -- says the archdiocese knew of allegations against the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer on June 18. Yet police reports show the archdiocese didn't report the claims to police until two days later. Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in November 2012 to three counts of criminal sexual conduct and 17 counts of possession of child pornography.
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said multiple agencies analyzed disks copied from the Rev. Jonathan Shelley's computer and found insufficient evidence to press charges.
The disclosure comes after similar releases by the St. Cloud, Duluth and Winona dioceses, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and St. John's Abbey in response to public pressure from victims and parishioners and, in some cases, court orders and pending litigation.
Internal financial reports show the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for years spent millions of dollars dealing with clergy misconduct. It created a system that allowed church leaders to remove priests accused of misconduct without attracting attention. But it also left the church vulnerable to embezzlement.
The lawyers have asked Ramsey County Judge John Van de North to suspend the Feb. 5 deadline for the disclosure of the names of priests accused since 2004. In separate court filings, they argued that the judge's order went too far and could harm the reputations of falsely accused priests.
Twenty-one of the priests, the diocese said, are dead. Of the living: Four live in Collegeville, one lives in St. Cloud, one in the Twin Cities metro area and another in New York City. The diocese doesn't know the whereabouts of five of the priests on the list.
Judge John Van de North last month ordered all the names of priests accused of sexually abusing children since 2004 by next week Monday. In court today, the judge extended the deadline to Feb. 5.
A Ramsey County judge ordered the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, along with the Diocese of Winona, to release the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing minors by Jan. 6. Now, both dioceses are asking the judge to modify his order to allow them to investigate allegations before releasing accused priests' names.
An internal church memo from 2002 names three priests with "known abuse histories" who weren't on the list of "credibly accused" priests released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis earlier this month.
Harry Walsh wasn't included on a recent list of priests 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse. Church leaders knew his history, yet allowed him to continue working in parishes until the fall of 2011. Today Walsh teaches sex education to troubled teenagers and vulnerable adults in Wright Co., Minn.
Archbishop John Nienstedt is under investigation after being accused of improperly touching a boy, and the St. Paul police chief is frustrated with Nienstedt for failing to cooperate with an investigation into sex abuse involving priests. MPR News reporter Madeleine Baran spoke with Morning Edition host Phil Picardi about the new developments in the story.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced Dec. 17 that Archbishop John Nienstedt voluntarily 'stepped aside from all public ministry' while police investigate a claim that he touched a boy on the buttocks in 2009, an allegation the archbishop denies.