MN--Victims blast Duluth bishop over “continued secrecy”

For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015

Statement by Verne Wagner of Duluth, SNAP director Northern Minnesota (

Shame on Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba and his public relations staff. Yesterday, they made one of the least compassionate and helpful statements we’ve ever seen from Catholic officials.

Challenged on why Sirba still keeps the identities of predator priests hidden, Sirba’s lawyer said "It's in the context of those litigation matters that issues of what will and will not be publicly released at any given time need to be addressed."

Then adding insult to injury, she claims that newly released secret church documents “don't tell a story of negligence by the Diocese of Duluth."

Ironically, her comments were included in a newspaper story headlined “Duluth bishops were warned about sex abuse, documents show.” One of those documents is a letter from a Duluth bishop who admits “From time to time I have given (accused predator priests) a chance to rehabilitate themselves in the Diocese of Duluth. Unfortunately, all of these. . .turned out quite miserably.")

Look at Sirba’s biography. He’s clearly a smart, well-educated man. But he’s timid. He won’t speak for himself. He hides behind his highly-paid defense lawyer, who just does what defense lawyers do: obscuring the truth and saying whatever her client wants her to say, albeit in cold and vague terms.

Duluth Catholics and citizens better. So do Duluth victims deserve. All of us deserve to know the truth about which clerics committed and concealed heinous crimes against kids in this diocese.

Instead, we’re being given more reckless secrecy, more carefully-crafted public relations spin and more bureaucratic, lawyer-like excuses.

Don’t blame Sirba’s lawyer. She’s just doing what she’s paid to do. The blame here lies squarely with Sirba and with every Duluth area Catholic employee who silently sits back instead of standing up and who tolerates hurtful behavior instead of challenging hurtful behavior. And the blame lies with each of these church employees – current or former, chancellors and custodians – who know or of suspect clergy sex crimes and cover ups but keep quiet instead of speaking up.

Let’s hope that the courage of abuse victims will prod and shame these church workers – whether ordained or lay people – into taking tangible steps to expose and deter wrongdoing.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 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,, Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell,, Barbara Blaine (

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