Archdiocese names 30 priests linked to child sexual abuse over six decades

By Madeleine Baran and Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
Dec. 5, 2013
The Cathedral of St. Paul, seat of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, cuts a stark silhouette against the St. Paul skyline. Archdiocesan leaders released the names of priests Thursday who it said have had "substantiated claims" of sexually abusing children leveled against them. Seven of the priests named in today's release were not previously known by the public as abusers. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News)

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has released the names of 30 priests it believes sexually abused children between 1950 and 2013.

The archdiocese also released the names of four other priests who had been included on an earlier list, but church officials now say those four should not have been included. A Ramsey County judge ordered the archdiocese Monday to release a list of 33 priests that had been sealed since 2009.

Seven of the priests named today were not previously known to the public as accused abusers. Five of those seven are still living. Others, such as the Rev. Robert Kapoun, are already well known through lawsuits and media coverage. About one-third of the priests on the list are dead.

• Full coverage: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis under scrutiny

The accused priests have served at nearly half — 92, in total — of the 188 parishes in the archdiocese, according to an email sent to priests Wednesday by vicar general Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, the archbishop's top deputy.

Rev. Robert Kapoun
The Polka Padre: By the early 1980s, the Rev. Robert Kapoun had abused at least 6 boys, according to men who later came forward. Despite multiple settlements and a million-dollar verdict against him (which was later overturned), Kapoun remained a priest, was allowed to retire and was given extra monthly payments in addition to his pension. (Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News)

The archdiocese released the names on its website and in the print edition of The Catholic Spirit newspaper, along with each priest's birth year, ordination year, parish assignment history, current status and city of residence. For the deceased priests, it also released the year of death.

The disclosure comes three days after Ramsey County Judge John Van de North ordered the archdiocese to release the names of all the priests on a sealed list of clergy with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them. The 33 names had been disclosed to attorneys in a 2009 clergy sexual abuse lawsuit, but a judge ordered they remain private.

The number of names on the original list — 33 in total — originated in 2004 when the Rev. Kevin McDonough, then second in command at the archdiocese, told researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that 33 priests in the archdiocese were "known to have credible allegations of the abuse of minors." The John Jay group had been commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to study clergy sexual abuse in the United States.

Archbishop John Nienstedt
Nienstedt's pledge: Archbishop John Nienstedt announced on Nov. 11 that he would begin releasing the names of priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against them in November if he could obtain a judge's permission to do so. (Jennifer Simonson/MPR News)

Attorneys for victims of clergy sexual abuse have argued for years that the public is at risk as long as the names of abusers remain secret. Archdiocesan officials have refused to name the priests in the past, but changed their position in response to an MPR News investigation that found church officials protected a priest who admitted to sexually abusing boys on an American Indian reservation in the 1970s.

It's unclear how law enforcement agencies will respond to the release of the list, if at all.

In St. Paul, where police are looking into allegations against the Rev. Jonathan Shelley and the Twin Cities archdiocese, police spokesman Howie Padilla said the list does not change the investigation.

"The list of names does not provide us with victims and their stories for us to investigate. So we are on the same path as we have always been," Padilla said today in an email to MPR News. "If there are victims of abuse in St. Paul who have not reported it to law enforcement, we would like to hear their stories so that we could begin investigations."

Authorities are hopeful that the archdiocese's release of names will encourage more victims to report any recollections of abuse. As of a few weeks ago, police said they heard from several people in response to Cmdr. Mary Nash's plea in October for victims to come forward.

Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said he’s interested in the names — first, to establish whether any of the alleged accusers present a threat to the community. But Schnell said it’s also important for law enforcement to respond to the needs of victims.

One big deterrent for victims who were abused by people in positions of authority is the sense that no one would believe them, Schnell said.

“It can be seen as, ‘My word against theirs,’” Schnell said. “And now that these people have been identified as potential offenders — or people who were credibly accused in the past — perhaps people will feel willing to [and] more comfortable coming forward.”

On Monday, Judge Van de North ordered the archdiocese to release all 33 names by Dec. 17. He also ordered the Diocese of Winona to release a similar list of 13 priests. Both dioceses have until Jan. 6 to release the names of priests accused since the lists were created.

Sasha Aslanian, Mike Cronin, Meg Martin and Tom Scheck contributed to this report.