MN- Alarming new disclosures in Twin Cities archdiocese, SNAP responds

MN- Alarming new disclosures in Twin Cities archdiocese, SNAP responds

For immediate release: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Six years after America's bishops pledged “zero tolerance” of child sexual abuse, the former chancellor of the St. Paul Archdiocese says she found about 20 clergy in ministry who were guilty of sexual misconduct with adults and children. 

Six years after America's bishops pledged mandatory background checks on all church personnel, that same former chancellor found that most Twin Cities priests hadn't had background checks since the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, top Catholic officials in St. Paul expanded the archdiocesan public relations staff from one to more than 20, according to the Pioneer Press.

And that former chancellor, Jennifer Haselberger, said she endured "months of harassment, threats, and intimidation" before resigning last year.

In a shocking, lengthy new affidavit filed today, Haselberger said that as recently as last year, Archbishop John Nienstedt lied to the public, claiming “that no abusing priests were in ministry,” something that simply wasn’t true, Haselberger said, citing the case of the Rev. Joseph Gallatin, then pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights.

Even before the St. Peter assignment, Gallatin’s personnel file indicated “the sexual nature of his contact with a boy in West Virginia and his admitted sexual attraction to boys as young as twelve...” Haselberger wrote.

Fr. Gallatin was finally put on leave last December

Remember, Haselberger is a devout Catholic and a canon lawyer who has been hired by at least three bishops.

Her integrity and motives are unquestioned. If she is to be faulted in any way, we suspect it would be for erring on the side of understatement.

(While she's certainly right about the “cavalier attitude” by Catholic officials on child safety, we suspect she could have also stressed the extremely careful attitude and actions by Catholic officials in concealing clergy sex crimes and misconduct.)

It's worth quoting at length part of the Minnesota Public Radio story about the Haselberger affidavit:

• The archdiocese had violated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the national document approved by U.S. bishops amid the Boston abuse scandal in 2002. Auditors hired by the Catholic Church after the 2002 scandal "were not ever allowed access to our clergy records to determine if the data matched what we reported. Had they done so, they would have found out that it did not. On the day that I resigned in April of 2013, eleven years following the adoption of the Charter, the Archdiocese still had not secured the 'essential three' (background check, VIRTUS training, and signed Code of Conduct) for all of its diocesan priests," Haselberger wrote. VIRTUS training focuses on how to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

• The Archdiocese oversaw faulty private investigations of abuse claims. "The way in which the Archdiocese sought information from potential complainants was one factor that led me to the opinion, which I shared on several occasions with Chancery leadership, that when the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis 'investigated' something, it was always done in such a way as to ensure that we concluded the investigation with less clarity than we began with," she said.

• The Archdiocese did not report every abuse allegation to its clergy review board, despite public promises that it would do so. She cited allegations against the Rev. Gerald Grieman, which she said were not brought before the review board.

• Laird refused to listen to her concerns about alleged misconduct by the Rev. Joseph Gallatin, a priest who was removed from parish ministry earlier this year. Haselberger said she reviewed documents in Gallatin's file that showed he had a sexual interest in boys, as previously reported by MPR News, which has reviewed those documents. "I literally followed Father Laird out of the building one evening with those highlighted documents in my hands, saying that if he didn't have time to read the whole documents, he could at least read the highlighted remarks. He refused," she said.

• The archdiocese declined to provide adequate funding to monitor abusive priests.

• The Rev. John Paul Erickson, a chancery official, knew of allegations of child sexual abuse by (Fr. Curtis) Wehmeyer and did not report it to police within 24 hours as required by state law.

In light of these new, credible and alarming disclosures, we urge the National Review Board, a basically invisible and ineffective group of largely devout Catholic lay people, to get off their behinds. Initially portrayed, a dozen years ago, as a “watchdog,” it has devolved into a “lap dog,” doing little or nothing to expose or denounce the continued complicity of many U.S. bishops in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases.

Their continued silence, in the face of more and more damaging disclosures in the Twin Cities archdiocese, guarantees that the board will remain a worthless panel.

But we hope that at least one or two NRB members will find the courage to publicly speak out about this continued irresponsible, self-serving and dangerous behavior by bishops.

Early board members like Frank Keating, Justice Ann Burke and others eventually got disgusted by on-going secrecy, callousness and recklessness by bishops. Let's hope that at least one of the current board members will develop a spine and a voice and do likewise.

Ultimately, however, the real solution to the continuing crisis in the Twin Cities Catholic community lies with law enforcement. Only the independent and experienced professionals in the police departments and the prosecutors' offices can really “clean house.” Sadly, their initial efforts to do this seem very weak. Still, it's vital that every person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Minnesota report to law enforcement officials immediately. When enough of us step forward, and enough caring Catholics speak up, change will come.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com), Frank Meuers of Plymouth (952-334-5180, frankameuers@gmail.com)

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