For immediate release: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Director (314) 566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Victims challenge Twin Cities bishops
They ousted predator priest 7-11 weeks ago
Despite promising “openness,” they told no one
He was publicly exposed yesterday for first time
And he still lives - apparently unsupervised – in the Twin Cities
Self help group blasts “continuing reckless & secrecy” of two bishops
A credibly accused predator priest who was exposed for the first time yesterday was apparently ousted several weeks ago in secrecy, leading a support group for clergy sex abuse victims to blast two St. Paul Catholic bishops for their role in “continuing the recklessness and deceit of Archbishop John Nienstedt, Fr. Kevin McDonough and others.”
Because of a court order, St. Paul Minnesota church officials revealed yesterday that Fr. Kenneth LaVan was removed from active ministry in December 2013 because of allegations that he molested a child.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are blasting Bishop Lee Piche and Bishop Andrew Cozzens for “doing exactly what bishops have done for decades – keeping secrets about child molesting clerics” and urging them explain their “inexcusable and complicity” in the Fr. LaVan case.
“Why on earth, when it was decided weeks ago that Fr. LaVan was too dangerous to keep on the job, did you refuse to tell anyone about him?” asked SNAP in a letter to archdiocesan officials. “How will you justify your secrecy if we later learn that Fr. LaVan molested another child over the past two months when you kept silent about him?”
“Unless Piche and Cozzens start acting differently from Nienstedt and McDonough, they will be viewed – justifiably – as corrupt just like Nienstedt and McDonough,” said SNAP leader Frank Meuers of Plymouth. “'We've reformed.' That's the carefully-crafted public relations mantra Catholic officials have relentlessly repeated for over a decade. But it's obvious, in the Twin Cities, this is simply not true.”
“This is incredibly self-serving behavior – right now - by Piche, Cozzens and others in the archdiocesan hierarchy,” Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP's outreach director. “These church officials are violating both church policy and common decency by staying silent about yet another predator – who's living in the Twin Cities - and giving him months to intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, shred evidence, and fabricate alibis.”
Archdiocesan staff say that Fr. LaVan retired in 1998 but admit he was only suspended in December. SNAP believes he likely continued to function as a priest, substituting for vacationing colleagues, helping during busy holiday times, etc. A church bulletin suggests he said Mass in the Twin Cities as recently as November at St. Charles Borromeo parish.
Fr. LaVan worked at St. Michael in St. Paul, St. Anne in Minneapolis, Guardian Angels in Oakdale, St. Joseph of the Lakes in Lino Lakes, and St. Francis of Assisi in Lake St. Croix Beach. He has not been defrocked so is apparently still on the archdiocesan payroll. He now lives in Oakdale.
A copy of SNAP's letter, sent today by fax & email, is below:
Feb. 18, 2014
Dear Bishop Piche and Bishop Cozzens:
Sometime between seven and eleven weeks ago, one or both of you likely quietly suspended Fr. Kenneth LaVan because of credible child sex abuse reports. (If Archbishop John Nienstedt was still on the job, he may have done this. But you two almost certainly knew about and kept secret the credible child sex reports against and the suspension of Fr. LaVan.)
So for perhaps as long as two and a half months, you've protected this credibly accused child molesting cleric, and let parents and parishioners keep on trusting him until yesterday, when you were forced by a court order to disclose the abuse reports against him. (And we strongly suspect, of course, that you or your colleagues and predecessors first heard abuse reports against Fr. LaVan years, if not decades, ago.) Thus, you have knowingly endangered innocent children and put them in harm's way, even after nearly six month of high profile scandal in your archdiocese and decades of promises to “improve” how top Catholic officials deal with clergy sex abuse cases.
Specifically, you and your fellow bishops have pledged, over and over again, verbally and in writing, to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex abuse. You did not pledge to be “open and transparent when it's convenient for us” or to be “open and transparent, but only if we can keep hiding a predator for months, then reveal his name months later, lumped together in a group of predators all in one batch to minimize bad publicity.”
In a few short weeks, by this move and others, you have dashed any hopes that you might prove to be less reckless, callous and deceptive than Archbishop Nienstedt. You have confirmed the worst fears of many victims and Catholics – that the on-going cover ups of clergy sex crimes in the St. Paul/Minneapolis archdiocese is largely the work of Archbishop Nienstedt, Fr. Kevin McDonough, Andrew Eisenzimmer and a small handful of other corrupt officials.
It's now clear that you two are as much a part of this complicit, selfish, career-and -reputation-obsessed hierarchy as Nienstedt and McDonough and the rest.
You are now in charge of this archdiocese, albeit temporarily. Years from now, you won't be able to tell your nieces and nephews that kids were hurt because of Archbishop Nienstedt and others. The harm you're causing by your irresponsible behavior will clearly be on you, not others.
We challenge you to make a clear, decisive break from the decades-long destructive patterns of selfish behavior that continue to characterize the Catholic hierarchy and continue to hurt the Catholic faithful. We challenge you to start by publicly explaining why you kept quiet about Fr. LaVan for months and to make up, in a small way, for your reckless secrecy, by personally visiting every parish where he worked, emphatically begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police so that he might be prosecuted, convicted, imprisoned and kept from hurting other kids.
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
Frank Meuers of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (952-334-5180, email@example.com)