September 30, 2013
Dear Archbishop Nienstedt:
You and your top staff have acted recklessly, callously, deceptively and secretively in the case of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer. These hurtful acts cannot be “un-done.” But you can – and should – act now to prevent more irresponsible and harmful behavior by your staff in the future, by
---disciplining at least three church employees over how they handled Fr. Wehmeyer and
---holding an open meeting to answer questions from parishioners and the public about this case.
In your heart of hearts, Archbishop, we believe you know that Fr. Kevin McDonough, Deacon John Vomastek and Greta Sawyer have all acted in ways that protect Fr. Wehmeyer, themselves and you, ways that were and are at best in appropriate and at worst very damaging to innocent children, wounded victims and trusting parishioners.
Fr. McDonough knew of Fr. Wehmeyer’s sexual misdeeds in 2004. Yet in 2011, he urged that the allegations against Fr. Wehmeyer be kept secret (despite years of bishops’ pledges to be “open” in clergy sex cases). And in 2012, when police knew about the accusations, before they arrived, McDonough - along with Deacon John Vomastek - took one of Fr. Wehmeyer’s computers.
We believe this could amount to tampering with evidence. But regardless of whether either man is criminally charged, you know it’s wrong for church staff to take evidence in a criminal case.
Similarly, we believe that you know it’s wrong that archdiocesan staffer Greta Sawyer recorded an interview with the (victim), before anyone who worked for the police had talked to him.
The question is: do you have the courage and compassion to take action against these three high-ranking staffers? If not, parents, parishioners and the public will rightfully assume that you approve of their actions. They will assume that you want other church staff to be secretive about alleged child sex crimes and to interfere with police investigations. That’s the message you are sending by your silence and inaction at this point.
Others should likely be disciplined or demoted as well, but based on church documents about this case and the uncontroverted behavior of these deceitful officials, it’s crystal clear that these three should at least face severe consequences for their serious wrongdoing.
Across the world, time and time again, we see the same alarming pattern in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Catholic officials ignore warning signs, hide sexual misdeeds, and when caught, nothing happens to them. So other Catholic officials mimic these self-serving but hurtful moves.
Ignoring wrongdoing encourages more wrongdoing. Sometimes in the church, those who commit clergy sex crimes and misdeeds are punished. But virtually never are those who conceal clergy sex crimes and misdeeds punishes. So church employees keep right on concealing clergy sex crimes and misdeeds.
We care less about exactly what punishment is meted out. We care more that the punishment is quick and severe and public, so others will be deterred from acting as irresponsibly and selfishly as Fr. McDonough and these other two acted.”
We hope to hear from you soon. Even more, we hope you will display real leadership and take decisive action and impose stern discipline so that kids will be safer and so that cover ups will be prevented in the future.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
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)
Bob Schwiderski of Wayzata, Minnesota SNAP Director, 952-471-3422, firstname.lastname@example.org