In Latest Test of Metropolitan Model, One Minnesota Bishop is Set to Investigate Another

In June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new model for investigating claims of wrongdoing by bishops. Now, that model is being put to the test in Minnesota and survivor advocates will be watching the outcome closely.

This just-announced investigation is being run by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of Minneapolis – St. Paul. The archbishop will look into allegations that Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston “carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston.” Given the pattern of obfuscation that we have learned about over the years and which was covered in painstaking detail and termed “the circle of secrecy” in last year’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, we are not surprised by these allegations. 

But rather than have these allegations investigated internally, we believe that it should be secular law enforcement who is investigating Bishop Hoeppner and his diocese, not fellow church officials. This new model of “investigation” has come about only because of public outrage and pressure and remains an internal review of bishops policing bishops. Making matters worse, what we have seen so far has not given us confidence.

The first test of the “Metropolitan Model” came when Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore was tasked with investigating the financial and sexual crimes of Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia. In our opinion, that test was a massive failure. In his final report on the investigation, Archbishop Lori scrubbed any mention of the lavish gifts and monetary exchanges between Bishop Bransfield and some of his brother bishopsincluding Archbishop Lori himself. That rocky start to the new internal investigation process gives us little hope that the investigation in Minnesota will be any more complete or transparent.

Institutions cannot police themselves. We hope that members of the publicwitnesses, or whistleblowers will report any suspected wrongdoing – by the Diocese of Crookston or anywhere else in Minnesota – to Attorney General Keith Ellison. We also hope that any victims who are still suffering in silence will find the strength to come forward and get help from secular sources of healing.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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