MN- Catholic officials under-report abuse; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014
Statement by Frank Meuers of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (952-334-5180, [email protected])
A lengthy new Minnesota Public Radio investigation reveals that St. Paul/Minneapolis Catholic officials have long under-reported the number of predator priests in the Twin Cities area.
Here's the story's bottom line – despite decades of pledges and policies that allegedly require “openness” about clergy sex cases, St. Paul Catholic officials continue to protect predators and keep secrets. Archdiocesan staff say 33 predator priests. Two independent sources put the figures much higher (BishopAccountability.org says 45. Minnesota Public Radio says at least 70.)
But here's what's the most frustrating to us: “All of the lists obtained by MPR News contain information that police have never seen.”
What are the police and prosecutors doing? Why aren't they seizing church abuse and cover up records now, before archdiocesan staff have time to destroy, “lose” or alter them?
According to MPR, “St. Paul police have not asked the archdiocese to turn over its files on accused priests. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has told MPR News that he doesn't plan to convene a grand jury. St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith has told MPR News he lacks probable cause for search warrants or subpoenas to seize the chancery's files.”
We think that's bunk. Subpoena the records. That might prevent them from being shredded. Then let these corrupt church officials challenge the legality of the subpoenas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And here's a new adage: “No risks taken, no kids protected.”
How many times must officials lie and deceive others and withhold information about known and suspected heinous child sex crimes before law enforcement will stop pussyfooting around and start using their power to preserve evidence and pursue wrongdoers, with real vigor?
St. Paul police have said that at this point there in no evidence that would merit a search warrant being issued. But in light of the information readily available to at least MPR, this is increasingly hard for us to believe.
What happens next? Archdiocesan staff will start splitting hairs and claiming they've 'goofed', but not intentionally done anything wrong.
And virtually no one who's been paying attention will believe this. Church officials will also try to distance themselves from religious order predators. But according to church policy, history and practice, no cleric works in the archdiocese without the archbishop's approval. So Catholic officials can't have their cake and eat it too. They can't take credit when a Jesuit performs the Heimlich maneuver and then claim “he's not one of ours” when he's caught assaulting a child.
And we just don't believe that Fr. McDonough lost track of some abuse reports. He blamed his allegedly faulty memory at least once. But he's a very smart man with a capable staff.
(Note what he wrote years ago about Fr. Louis Heitzer: "As I have come to learn more about what (he) did, I believe he was perhaps the most abusive priest ever to be a part of this Archdiocese. I now believe that he abused boys every place he went." Yet, MPR reports that “The archdiocese hasn't released any information on Heitzer's alleged abuse.”)
In general, we believe in giving others the benefit of the doubt. But not with Catholic officials and clergy sex abuse cases. And especially not in the Twin Cities.
Finally, in light of the damaging material released today by Minnesota Public Radio, we find it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to believe that the Archdiocese has done a credible job of reaching out to victims, as they have repeatedly claimed they are doing. The internal church notes and memos show that, over and over again, Fr. McDonough and others in the chancery knew that there were abusing priests that had worked, and in some cases continued to work, in Twin Cities parishes around unsuspecting families.
There were many lists of predators, MPR reports, listing some men on one, and some on another, and they had a system set up for classifying the abuse charges into three groups according to what they saw as a need for internal action of some kind. None of this had anything to do with protecting kids or helping victims. Rather, it was about damage control. Their main thrust was to set up new, complicated road blocks to those reporting abuse so church officials could avoid having to take responsibility for their corrupt actions.
More names must be released, and more action must be taken – especially by law enforcement and upset Catholics. Until this happens, our children will continue to be exposed to possible violence while those sworn to protect them stand idly by.
(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 15,000 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, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Bob Schwiderski of Wayzata (952-471-3422, [email protected]), Frank Meuers of Plymouth (952-334-5180, [email protected])