MN--Statement re Duluth area predators
Statement by Verne Wagner, Duluth SNAP director
We belong to a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). We’re here to discuss the newly-outed five predator priests who have worked in Duluth. We’re here to warn parents and the public about the two of them who are still alive. And we’re here today to prod Duluth Catholic officials to find some courage, do what’s right, disclose more information and take real steps – not cosmetic ones, not superficial ones – to protect kids.
Let’s start with the obvious, the simple and the pressing: One of these clerics, Fr. Charland, is a psychologist in the Twin Cities. Other than being a priest, could there possibly be a more dangerous job for a child molester to have? http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/07/07/oblate-names-released
Why isn’t there an alert on every Catholic website in Minnesota, saying “WARNING – a credibly accused child molester is now working as a therapist! Please don’t let your children near him!”
Facing legal pressure, Catholic officials have reluctantly but publicly put Fr. Charland’s name on a list of publicly and credibly accused abusers. They obviously admit he’s dangerous. But they refuse to take even a quick, cheap, simple step to keep kids away from him. Shame on them.
We beg every single Catholic lay person and staff person in the Duluth diocese to contact Bishop Sirba and urge him to warn families about Fr. Charland. He could literally be molesting a girl in his office this afternoon or a boy in his neighborhood this evening. Bishop: Stop splitting hairs and making excuses and claiming ignorance. Start taking action to prevent more devastating child sex crimes.
We have a few other requests today.
We beg who was hurt by any these priests to speak up and get help.
We beg them to call secular authorities, not church officials.
We beg them to call independent sources of help, like our support group.
We beg former Catholic employees in Duluth and across Minnesota to “come clean” with information or suspicions about these priests.
We beg these ex-employees to call police and prosecutors.
Current Catholic officials in Duluth and across Minnesota, we beg them to “come clean” with more information about the priests and to use their vast resources to aggressively seek out their victims.
Records about these Minnesota predator priests are being released as part of a lawsuit. Five of them worked in the Duluth area: Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald, Fr. Michael Charland, Fr. Robert J. Reitmeier, Fr. Paul Kabat and Fr. Thomas Meyer.
Duluth Catholic officials claim they know virtually nothing about these clerics and their tenure here. Frankly, we do not believe this. Time and time again, we have heard the words “We didn’t know.” The fact is that Catholic officials are terrific record-keepers. They either know about these predators or can find out quickly about them.
The bishop should send an email today to every single church worker, saying “If you have any information or suspicions about these priests – however old or small or seemingly insignificant – send that information today to police, prosecutors, journalists and to me.”
But he won’t do that. He’ll claim that’s the Oblates’ duty. He’s wrong. And he’s timid. And he’s irresponsible. And he’s callous.
We also want Bishop Sirba to quit fighting to protect clergy who sexually abuse children. The diocese “is spending tens of thousands dollars, donated by the faithful, to keep hidden their files on proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clergy. This is also irresponsible and callous.
We believe it’s almost certain that others who were hurt by these priests are still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. We want Catholic officials in Duluth and across Minnesota to “use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to aggressively seek out and offer help to these wounded victims.
The records release is part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit brought against the Oblates by a Twin Cities man who reports having been molested by Fr. Fitzgerald. The settlement involved only the Oblates, so the case against the dioceses of Duluth and New Ulm (where several of these priests also worked) continues. So more long-hidden church records will be divulged in the months ahead.
Here’s the bottom line: Bishop Sirba is cut from the same cloth as disgraced former Twin Cities Archbishop John Neinstedt to hide the names that have harmed our children and will continue to keep them in danger.
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.