MN - Twin Cities priest scandal is “worst yet,” SNAP says

For immediate release: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013

Statement by Bob Schwiderski of Wayzata, Minnesota Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests ([email protected], 952 471 3422)

A police report says that top officials at the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese withheld evidence of child porn and now the alleged sex offender can’t be criminally charged.

And for a decade, several archdiocesan staffers hid the alleged child porn from parents, parishioners and the public. 

Both moves are extraordinarily irresponsible and kept children at risk. Both moves prove that, in the Catholic hierarchy, when it comes to clergy sex crimes and cover ups, little has changed.

Jaded Catholic and citizens who are inclined to say “Ho hum, another Catholic sex scandal” should pay close attention here. This case is different. This is the worst case in Minnesota in more than a decade.

Because several Catholic officials protected him, a priest who had thousands of images of child porn and might otherwise have spent the last decade in prison won’t go to prison. Every day of this decade of deliberate deceit, secrecy and recklessness has happened AFTER America’s Catholic bishops solemnly pledged to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex crimes.

Like similar cases in Kansas City (involving Bishop Robert Finn) and Philadelphia (involving Msgr. William Lynn), this case shows that high-ranking Catholic officials continue to obsess with protecting themselves and their reputations instead of protecting innocent kids and vulnerable adults.

When you’re caught doing wrong, you have two choices. You can stop doing wrong. Or you can try even harder to hide your wrongdoing. Twin Cities’ Catholic officials are doing the latter. Thankfully, in two alarming recent cases – with Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer and Fr. Jonathan Shelley - their self-serving and devious decisions have been exposed. (As Martin Luther King said “No lie lives forever.”)

The obvious and frightening question is “How many other dangerous sex offender clergy is Archbishop Nienstadt hiding?”

The vicar general’s voluntary resignation changes nothing. The archbishop’s resignation – were it to happen – would change nothing.

History, experience and common sense tell us that only two things will make children safer in the Catholic church in the Twin Cities.

First, every single Catholic church employee and member – current and former – must search his or her conscience and find the courage to call police, prosecutors, therapists, support groups and other independent sources of help. Every shrewd of knowledge or suspicion about possible clergy sex crimes and cover ups must be turned over to law enforcement – no matter how small, old or seemingly insignificant.

Second, a full and aggressive law enforcement investigation into clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the Twin Cities is crucial. Every single current and former Catholic employee who ignored, concealed and enabled child sex crimes – from archbishop to administrator – must be exposed, removed, and prosecuted.

We again beg Twin Cities prosecutors to launch a full-scale grand jury investigation into the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese to that the vulnerable can be protected, the wounded can be healed, the truth can be exposed, cover ups can be exposed and more wrongdoing be prevented.

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected])

Showing 4 comments

  • Gary Siebers
    commented 2013-10-05 17:14:29 -0500
    It is my opinion that bishops cover up the crimes because they themselves are child sexual predators.
  • Ralph Nadolny
    commented 2013-10-04 12:34:50 -0500
    Bob, maybe the Bishops crossed their fingers when they pledged to uphold “zero tolerance” in these matters.
    Or maybe they employed “mental reservation”, a privilege and perogative extended solely to the so-called “princes of the church”. This practice has been routinely employed by Bishops in both the US & Ireland with respect to the testimony they have given under oath in clergy abuse trials as documented by former Roman Catholic priest, A. W. Richard Sipe.
    1) Mr. Sipe explains:
    36. Secrecy is an unwritten but clear code within the clerical system. The clerical system often extends its prerogative of sacramental confessional confidentiality beyond law or reason to include any material it wishes to keep secret to preserve its image and at times for its convenience. A bishop responded, “I only lie when I have to” when chided by a priest for denying abuse that the bishop knew about. That modus operendi and justification for deception is common. This rationalization is often justified by the traditional moral doctrine of Mental Reservation. Literally this means that one does not have responsibility to tell the truth to one who does not have a right to it. The motivation to save the reputation of the church and the priesthood from scandal has been paramount since the Protestant Reformation. Caution about scandal is frequent in canon law (29 times). The dictum “not to give scandal” is impressed upon students in Catholic education as early as the first grade.
    37. Cardinals make a vow to the Pope to keep secret anything confided to them that if revealed would cause harm or dishonor to the church. [“I vow…not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church”] That promise of secrecy forms a template within the clerical system to keep internal scandalous behavior under wraps, “for the good of the Church.”
    Father B. U. Gormless, S.J., defines mental reservation as “an unspoken intention to limit one’s compliance with a contract one is overtly entering into.” This moral doctrine has also been employed to “deny the whole truth” to those who have no right to it or to avoid “greater harm.”

  • Ralph Nadolny
    commented 2013-10-04 11:56:20 -0500
    Bob . . so much for “zero tolerance”

    As the old adage goes:

    “the more things change, the more they stay the same”

    “once fooled, shame on you; twice fooled, shame on me”

    JuneAnnette, a former Roman Catholic . . now a Christian by God’s grace
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