The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, February 18, 2011
Catholic officials hide priest’s sex crimes for 5 yrs; SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])
For five years, Twin Cities Catholic officials have hidden from police a cleric’s repeated and devastating abusive sex crimes against a vulnerable young woman who sought his help. (Even now, after the predatory priest has been charged with heinous crimes, the archdiocesan public relations staff calls them “incidents” and claims to regret any pain she “may have” endured.)
A priest repeatedly sexually exploits, and even sodomizes, a devout, vulnerable parishioner who suffered from
childhood sexual abuse and bulimia. In a tragically familiar pattern, Catholic supervisors learn of the crimes, tell virtually no one for years, and transfer him to another parish where all but a handful of the flock are kept totally in the dark.
For years, bishops have misled parishioners about abusive priests, claiming that alleged new screening processes were helping to “weed out” sexually troubled seminarians. This predator, however, was ordained in 2003.
For the sake of public safety, we hope that Fr. Wenthe and his callous, reckless and deceitful church supervisors go to jail. And we hope that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Wenthe’s crimes will step forward, call police, protect others, and get help from independent sources.
(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 23 years and have more than 10,000 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 SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Twin Cities priest charged with sexually abusing parishioner
Rev. Christopher Wenthe allegedly abused woman from 2003 to '05 at Nativity Church in St. Paul. --- By PAT PHEIFER, Star Tribune - February 17, 2011 - 9:55 PM
The Rev. Christopher Wenthe was newly ordained and second in charge at Nativity Church in St. Paul, one of the wealthiest and most venerable Catholic parishes in the Twin Cities, when he allegedly repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct with a young woman who had come to him for guidance, according to criminal charges.
Wenthe, 46, currently serving as pastor of St. Peter's and St. Joseph's parishes in Delano, was arrested and charged Thursday in Ramsey County District Court with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was jailed in lieu of $15,000 bail. If convicted, he faces a likely sentence of four to almost five years in prison.
In a written statement, Dennis McGrath, communications director of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said the archdiocese learned of "the matter" in September 2005. The woman was offered counseling and therapy, he said, adding that she was told she could go to police "but chose not to do so [then]."
However, the complaint details what the woman did report to St. Paul police in April 2010 and contains numerous excerpts from a letter dated Oct. 2, 2006, that she wrote to "a high-ranking member" of the archdiocese about the abuse.
The archdiocese's statement said Wenthe underwent a psychological evaluation and treatment and, in August 2006, was "allowed to return to active ministry with certain conditions and restrictions."
"No complaints or incidents have been made over the past five years of his ministry," the statement said.
Invited to apartment
The woman, now 29, said the abuse happened between Nov. 1, 2003, and Feb. 28, 2005. She said she had been sexually abused as a child and suffered from bulimia.
She said she converted to Catholicism in 2003 and met Wenthe when he spoke at her initiation class at Nativity. He also came to a picnic honoring graduates of the class and, soon after, became her regular confessor.
At her first confession, Wenthe took her to a private sitting room adjacent to his bedroom in the rectory. There, she told him about her earlier sexual abuse and that she had "a tendency to disassociate when confronted with sexual advances," the complaint said.
The woman said her first sexual contact with Wenthe happened after he invited her to his apartment after she had attended her first session with a counselor to begin dealing with the childhood sexual abuse and eating disorder.
He embraced her and, "Immediately the situation became inappropriate," the woman's letter said. Then he asked her to perform oral sex.
"I remember pleading with him that we should stop," the letter said. "He made me feel like I had done this to him and that I was obligated to finish the job. After I complied, he turned from me, trembling and crying, repeating over and over that we were going to hell and his priesthood was over; that God could never forgive this, then he apologized."
Letter to archdiocese
Wenthe's alleged behavior fell into a pattern of remorse, then re-engagement, the complaint said. He had sexual contact with the woman about every two weeks.
The woman told police that as the relationship escalated, her eating disorder became more severe. In 2004, she went to Arizona for bulimia treatment, the complaint said. The night before she left, Wenthe came to her house, sodomized her, then left when she said she could not continue with it, her letter said.
Yet when she returned from Arizona, Wenthe's alleged contact with her began again. On Aug. 31, 2005, the woman whom the victim had stayed with in Arizona also wrote to the archdiocese about the priest's sexual relationship.
Police first talked to Wenthe in August 2010, the complaint said. He acknowledged his sexual relationship with the woman. He said the archdiocese had confronted him about his "inappropriate relationship with her" and sent him to treatment for a "generalized anxiety disorder."
Phone messages left at Nativity Church were not returned on Thursday. George Murphy, chairman of the parish council, said he did not wish to comment.
A woman who answered the phone at the Delano Catholic Community, said to call the archdiocese.
McGrath said Wenthe was ordained in 2003. He left Nativity parish in June 2005, then held positions in Zumbrota, Pine Island and Stillwater before moving to Delano.
"The Archdiocese sincerely regrets any pain or suffering that the woman may have endured and continues to offer her our assistance and care," the archdiocese's statement said.
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992
Statement from the Archdiocese of Saint. Paul and Minneapolis
Re: Arrest today of Father Thomas Wenthe on sex abuse charges
February 17, 2011 - Father Christopher Wenthe, former pastor of the Delano Catholic Community, was arrested today on charges of sexual contact with an adult. The incidents occurred between November of 2003 and February of 2005.
The matter was reported to Archdiocesan authorities in September 2005. The woman subsequently met with Archdiocesan representatives and was offered counseling and therapy. She was informed, as consistent with Archdiocesan policy, that she could report the contact to the police but chose not to do so. Following an internal review, the Archdiocese sent Fr. Wenthe for a psychological assessment and treatment.
Following his discharge, Fr. Wenthe’s case was referred to the independent Clergy Review Board for evaluation. In late August of 2006, the Clergy Review Board recommended that the priest be allowed to return to active ministry with certain conditions and restrictions.
Father Wenthe was appointed Parochial Vicar of St. Michael/St. Mary parish in October, 2006 and a full report was given to the pastor and the trustees of the parish. He was appointed pastor of the Delano Catholic Community, concurrent with another review of his status by the Clergy Review Board. Disclosures were also made to the Delano parish trustees.
No complaints or incidents have been made over the past five years of his ministry. The Archdiocese sincerely regrets any pain or suffering that the woman may have endured and continues to offer her our assistance and care.
CONTACT: Dennis B. McGrath
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests