Judge orders St. Paul archdiocese, Winona diocese, to release lists of accused priests

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(Star Tribune) The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as the Diocese of Winona, must release the names of 46 priests accused of sexually abusing minors, a Ramsey County District Court judge ruled Monday. He set a deadline of Dec. 17.

Judge John Van de North ordered that the church provide not just the names of the priests but their year of birth, year of ordination, the list of parishes where they served, their current ministerial status, current residence and whether they are still living.

The Twin Cities archdiocese has held secret its list of 33 credibly accused abusers since it was compiled in 2004. Another 13 clergy have been on a similar list in the Winona diocese.

“We are greatly relieved that finally there will be disclosure so children will be protected from further harm and those who have been hurt can come forward,” said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney specializing in clergy sex abuse.

Anderson is representing John Doe 1, whose sexual abuse lawsuit sought to force the archdiocese to reveal the names of abusive priests. Ramsey County District Judge Gregg Johnson ruled in 2009 that the list be kept private in that case.

The archdiocese declined to comment on the order, saying it would release a statement later Monday. However, during the hearing, archdiocese attorney Tom Wieser said Archbishop John Nienstedt wanted to put the issue behind him.

“The archbishop believes the whole list issue is becoming a distraction,” Wieser told the judge. “The archbishop wants the healing to begin.”

During the court hearing, Wieser offered to provide the information for 29 of the 33 priests on its list, which was compiled a decade ago in response to a new child protection charter created by U.S. bishops. It includes the names of credibly accused clergy from 1950 to 2002.

Wieser said the shorter list could be made public as early as Thursday.

But the judge ordered that information for all of the priests on the list be filed with the court.

If this information is not provided, a detailed explanation must be presented outlining why, he said.

Bob Schwiderski, director of the Minnesota chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was in the courtroom. He called the ruling “huge.” It comes on the heels of a change in Minnesota law that gives abuse victims a three-year window to file lawsuits claiming past abuse, removing the statute of limitations that prevented may cases from moving forward.

Making public the names of clergy who have sexually abused children over the years will help heal the wounds of survivors, who often have felt alone in their suffering, he said.

“It might not open a flood gate of new victims, but it will open a flood gate of emotions,” said Schwiderski, who was sexually abused by a priest as a boy.

Last month, in response to new allegations of clergy sex abuse against several priests, Archbishop John Nienstedt promised to release some names of accused priests, with court approval.

The lists were created when U.S. bishops commissioned the John Jay College of Law in New York to compile a nationwide statistical summary of the clergy abuse of minors after the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002. Dioceses were asked to review their records over the past 50 years and submit data for the study. Among the findings by the Twin Cities archdiocese: A total of 26 diocesan priests had been accused of sex abuse involving minors. If priests of other religious orders and other dioceses who had worked in the archdiocese were included, seven more priests, 33 in total, were known to have been accused of abusing minors.

Judge orders St. Paul archdiocese, Winona diocese, to release lists of accused priests
Jean Hopfensperger
December 2, 2013
StarTribune

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Topics: 2013 Archdiocesan List, Uncategorized

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