MN--Victims blast new head of Twin Cities archdiocese

For immediate release:  Sunday, July 12

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

We’re very saddened and worried by recent claims made by the new head of the Twin Cities archdiocese. Bernard Hebda seems more like an over-the-top cheerleader than a thoughtful, conscientious shepherd. He seems fixated with public relations posturing to mollify the flock instead of fixing a scandal-ridden institution. At best, he seems like a Pollyanna and at worst, he seems like a slick politician.

--In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Hebda said that "great strides have already been made" in monitoring abusive priests.

Come on! Just a few weeks ago, a prosecutor called the archdiocese’s alleged monitoring “a sham.” It’s pretty hard to believe that it could have improved dramatically in such a short time.

We challenge Hebda to cite facts about the alleged monitoring of pedophile priests. Parents and parishioners need and deserve details, not deception.

Even more, we challenge Hebda to force child molesting clerics to live in one place and tell people where it is. Now, dozens of dangerous clerics live on their own in neighborhoods surrounded by vulnerable kids and unsuspecting families. Real monitoring means housing predators under the clear and constant supervision of independent, trained, secular professionals, not part-time church staff. Bishops Nienstedt, Piche, Couzzens, Carlson and others refused to do this. Hebda should start doing it.

--In another, lengthy interview (with the archdiocesan newspaper), the first “challenge” Hebda cites in the archdiocese are priests who don’t speak enough foreign languages. The second he cites is “how to keep our young people engaged.”

Sadly, he doesn’t mention the safety of children or the healing of victims or the exposing of cover ups or the prevention of abuse.

--Hebda refuses, like his predecessor, to use the phrase “cover up.” He claims “sometimes our priests have committed acts of abuse,” minimizing the widespread extent of this crisis. (Church officials now admit that some 6,427 US priests are accused of child sex crimes. The real figure, we suspect, is three or four times higher. In at least three dioceses, roughly 10% of priests have been accused of abusing kids.)

--He claims that that the archdiocese has “done an excellent job here of addressing” issues like

“transparency and “good relationships with law enforcement.” Huh?

--He repeats the canard that dozens of Twin Cities Catholic church officials have mindlessly repeated for decades, that “People in the Church and around the country will be learning from St. Paul and Minneapolis best practices that move us forward.” Again, huh? The archdiocese is being criminally charged with putting kids in harm’s way. “Best practices?”

In short, kids need prevention, not pablum.  Kids are protected by specific deeds, not casual speculation or PR spin. We hope Twin Cities Catholics and citizens – and law enforcement personnel – won’t be lulled into complacency by a glad-handing cheerleader. We hope they insist that Hebda take tangible, proven steps to protect the vulnerable, punish the guilty, deter the cover ups and reveal the truth.

(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, S[email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747,[email protected]), Verne Wagner of Duluth, Northeast MN SNAP director (218- 340-1277[email protected])

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