An MPR News investigation

Betrayed by Silence

For decades, leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have been reassigning, excusing and overlooking sexually abusive priests among their ranks. Some received additional retirement benefits. In August, a top church lawyer, shocked at what she saw, brought the story to MPR News. What happened next is still unfolding.

LATEST: Former priest's improprieties detailed in new document release

The Essential Guide

Scandal in the Archdiocese:
A quick guide ▶
Patterns of negligence
Three archbishops -- Roach, Flynn and Nienstedt -- and their deputies have shielded and shuffled priests who were known to have abused children (like the Rev. Clarence Vavra) across the archdiocese, instead of forcing them out of the priesthood, for decades. (Photo by Amanda Snyder/MPR News)
A whistleblower emerges
In the spring of 2013, Jennifer Haselberger, the archdiocese's chancellor for canonical affairs, resigned her position as the archbishop's top advisor on church law after a series of unsuccessful attempts to move church leaders -- such as Archbishop John Nienstedt and Vicar General Peter Laird -- to take action on problem priests. She decided, then, that the story ought to be brought to the public and contacted MPR News. (Photo by Jennifer Simonson/MPR News)
Flouting the bishops' rules
In 2002, American Catholic bishops had gathered to address the growing clergy sexual abuse crisis, which had begun with a damning investigation in The Boston Globe. Led by Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn, the bishops issued the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which, among other things, reminded bishops that priests who sexually abuse children should be removed from ministry. The Charter emphasized victims first, predators second. But the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis continued to protect pedophile priests. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images/File 2002)
Special payments
Archbishop Harry Flynn and his vicar general, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, made deals with some priests who were known to have abused children, allowing them to retire early with payments in addition to their regular pensions. The Rev. Robert Kapoun (pictured) was one of those priests. (Photo by Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News)
The St. Paul Police Department says it has been investigating a number of accusations of abuse by Catholic Clergy in the Twin Cities since the local scandal began. Chief Tom Smith said the church has been uncooperative. In October, Commander Mary Nash (pictured) made a plea for victims to come forward. Ramsey Co. Attorney John Choi, responding to calls that he impanel a grand jury in the case, says he's waiting instead for police to bring him their findings. (Photo by Jennifer Simonson/MPR News)
Church looks inward
Archbishop John Nienstedt has kept a low public profile since reports of abuse first emerged. In response to the crisis, he put a task force in place, hired an outside firm to review clergy personnel files and on a judge's order released the names of 34 priests who he said had been "credibly accused" of abuse. Nienstedt apologized to parishioners in December for bishops' failings in the crisis. He stepped aside from public ministry when a claim that he touched a boy on the buttocks was reported to police. He denies the allegation. (Photo by Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP)
Domino effect
The effects of the unfolding clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Twin Cities have begun to spill over beyond the metro area.

Four of the five Minnesota dioceses -- Duluth, St. Cloud, Winona and Crookston -- and St. John's Abbey have released lists of clergy with credible accusations of abuse against them.

In the meantime, Minnesota's Child Victims Act, which passed into law in May, will allow victims to file lawsuits against alleged abusers for the next three years. (Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba photo by Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune via AP)

Twin Cities and beyond

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    Timeline: An ongoing history of the scandal

    All Stories

    • Attorneys Mike Finnegan, left, and Jeff Anderson Former priest's improprieties detailed in new document release

      Jul 23, 2014 —The documents are part of a massive lawsuit filed by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson in the 1970s. The man has accused the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona of creating a public nuisance by keeping information on abusive priests secret.

    • Jeff Anderson Ramsey County judge rules clergy sex abuse case may go to trial

      Jul 22, 2014 —The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona had asked the judge to dismiss the case.

    • Cathedral of St. Paul Betrayed by Silence: An investigation in four chapters

      Jul 21, 2014 —A detailed exploration of the roots of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Twin Cities -- in documents, audio, photos and video -- from the cover-up tactics that Archbishop Harry Flynn fine-tuned in the bayous of southern Louisiana to the secrets kept in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

    • Jennifer Haselberger Under oath, whistleblower challenges Archbishop Nienstedt over abuse testimony

      Jul 15, 2014 —In her sworn statement, the former archdiocese chancellor also accused top church leaders of a "cavalier attitude" towards the safety of children, and contradicted sworn testimony by former top church deputies Peter Laird and Kevin McDonough and archdiocese attorney Andrew Eisenzimmer.

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