MN- Crookston bishop hid predator priest for a decade

For immediate release: Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

Newly released records show that Crookston's bishop kept silent about a credibly accused and suspended predator priest in Winona for at least a decade.

As a top ranking church official in Winona diocese, then - Fr. Michael J. Hoeppner knew that Fr. Leland J Smith was a danger to children. He explained to Smith that he was on "administrative leave" due to charges of sexual abuse.

But apparently, at least as early as April of 2003, Fr. Hoeppner as far as we can tell did not tell police parishioners or the public about Fr.Smith.

In 2013, Fr. Smith was publicly "outed" as a credibly accused child molester because of the court ordered release of the names of credible accused clergy.

In 2007, Fr. Hoeppner was promoted by the pope to become Bishop Hoeppner, the head of the Crookston diocese.

How many other credibly accused predator priests, in Winona or Crookston or elsewhere, is Bishop Hoeppner protecting now?

In June 2002, America’s bishops (under tremendous public pressure) finally adopted a nationwide church abuse policy. That policy mandates “openness” in clergy sex cases. Yet less than a year after it took effect, Hoeppner was violating it and putting kids in harm’s way by doing so.

We call on him to answer this question - How many other credibly accused predator priests, in Winona or Crookston or elsewhere, is he protecting now - and to explain why he violated church policy and common decency by keeping silent about a suspended and credibly accused priest for more than a decade.

And we call on anyone in the Crookston diocese – whether victim, witness or whistleblower – to speak up now and safeguard kids by exposing wrongdoers. We especially call on current and former Crookston area Catholic employees to do what Hoeppner refused to do for a decade

-  to share what they know or suspect about Catholic clerics who commit or conceal child sex crimes with the police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public.

(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 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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]),Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Frank Meuers of Plymouth (952-334-5180, [email protected]) Verne Wagner (218-340-1277, [email protected])



SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant