Archdiocese Will Review Priest Misconduct Cases, Archbishop Says
By Emily Gurnon
October 1, 2013
|Scott Domeier (AP Photo/Ramsey County sheriff's office)|
The attorney for a man sentenced Monday for embezzling $560,000 from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis alleged that the organization has been financially supporting five priests involved in misconduct with children and four priests involved in misconduct with adult women.
Attorney Terry Duggins tried to introduce in court a March 4, 2012, memo faxed from his office to attorney William Egan of Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly of Minneapolis, a law firm hired by the archdiocese.
Ramsey County District Judge Joanne Smith would not allow it.
The memo, provided to reporters, details what Duggins described as a "hostile work environment" faced by Scott Domeier, who worked for 17 years as the director of accounting services for the archdiocese. Domeier was disturbed, the memo said, by work he had to do related to the allegations of priestly misconduct.
As a part of his annual duties, Domeier requested information from archdiocese attorneys about the status of various lawsuits, and forwarded it to the organization's CPA firm.
"He believes that there were six or seven new suits filed in 2010 and 2011, combined. This has been very disturbing to him. He considers the basis of these lawsuits to be morally wrong, unethical and illegal," Duggins wrote.
Domeier also believed that paying the priests' related expenses in the cases to be "morally wrong, unethical and possibly illegal," Duggins wrote.
Some priests on Duggins' list previously had been alleged to have sexually abused minors. One is Joseph Wajda, who was sued by two boys in 1989 for alleged abuse in Crystal. Wajda's case was settled out of court. He denied the allegations.
Michael Stevens, on Duggins' list, was convicted of sexual abuse.
Also on the list was the Rev. Richard Jeub, who resigned as a pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Roseville after reports in 2002 that he allegedly had inappropriate relationships with adult women and at least one girl. The incidents allegedly occurred between 1969 and the 1980s, according to documents filed as part of a lawsuit.
Duggins also alleges that, according to Domeier, some 25 priests accused of misconduct have "been assigned and re-assigned multiple times to different parishes, some as many as five or six times in a short period of years."
Another group of 20 to 25 priests are in a group designated for "special attention," which is "based on the fact that these priests have a history of abuse of minors or adults, or have disputed claims against them, and all are currently assigned to parishes," Duggins wrote.
James Accurso, spokesman for the archdiocese, sent a written response Tuesday to a request for comment.
The memo with Domeier's allegations was "filled with factual errors and misrepresentations," the statement said.
Catholic Church law requires that priests suspected of misconduct receive financial "and other forms" of assistance. The support "help(s) ensure that the offending priest does not re-offend," the statement said. Likewise, the archdiocese provides assistance to victims, most often payment for therapy.
However, Archbishop John Neinstedt on Friday called for a task force to provide "a full review of misconduct cases" involving priests, the statement said. That decision followed a Minnesota Public Radio report regarding an alleged lack of action by the archdiocese to warning signs about convicted child molester Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer.
The archdiocese has a "zero-tolerance" standard for sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult and "absolute accountability," the statement said.
Domeier, 52, of Cottage Grove was sentenced Monday to three years in prison after previously pleading guilty to theft by swindle and filing false tax returns. He said he deeply regretted his actions. Domeier was taken into custody immediately after the sentencing hearing.
The judge said she would take the matter of restitution under advisement. Domeier's attorney argued that the amount should not include the approximately $230,000 paid by the archdiocese for a financial review of its books by Ernst & Young, the work of a public relations firm on the case and attorneys' fees. That money was not covered by insurance.
Andrew Eisenzimmer, a former archdiocese official called by prosecutor John Ristad to testify on the restitution, countered that they needed the auditors to find the full extent of the loss. That was information the police would not have been able to determine, he said.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/EmilyGurnon.