MN--Predator priest loses at US Supreme Court
For immediate release: Monday, Dec. 7, 2015
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP outreach director (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org)
The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a Minnesota predator priest. Now, Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda has no reason to sit back and do nothing. If he cares about healing the wounded and protecting the vulnerable, Hebda will work hard to find and help others who have been hurt by Fr. Christopher Wenthe.
Fr. Wenthe “was convicted in 2011 of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with (a) woman at a meeting in which she sought counseling in 2003. State law makes it a felony for clergy members to have sex with people they are spiritually advising,” according to the AP.
Hebda’s not dumb. He knows that adults who are exploited by clerics are usually filled with shame, confusion and self-blame. He knows that they’ll likely stay silent unless he does aggressive outreach to them. But he’s unwilling to do so. He’s like virtually every other Catholic official who prefers to comfortably sit in offices rather than go out, like Jesus suggested (in the parable of the Good Shepherd), and help the lost and wounded sheep. Shame on him.
As Twin Cities SNAP leader Frank Meuers said earlier this year, “Fr. Wenthe preys on vulnerable, devout women who have been raised since birth to respect and revere allegedly celibate priests who posture as Christ’s representatives on earth. That’s why it’s illegal in Minnesota and other states for clerics to sexually exploit congregants. Bishop Bernard Hebda is essentially a ‘caretaker.’ He can’t initiate radical changes in the archdiocese. He can, however, use church resources to reach out to others who saw, suspected or suffered Fr. Wenthe’s crimes. And if he wants us to believe he’s a better shepherd than his predecessor, that’s precisely what he’ll do. Parish bulletins, pulpit announcements, church websites, news releases – these are a few of the many ways Hebda could prod others with information or suspicions about Fr. Wenthe’s crimes to step forward. We challenge Hebda to do this immediately and to personally go to each place where Fr. Wenthe worked spreading this message.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Frank Meuers of Plymouth MN, SNAP director Southern Minnesota (952-334-5180, email@example.com), Verne Wagner of Duluth, SNAP director Northern Minnesota (218-340-1277, firstname.lastname@example.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.