Victims Group Seeks Investigation in Case of Former Chisholm Priest
The News Tribune Staff
October 15, 2013
A victims group has called on the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office to review possible charges against a former Chisholm priest accused of child sexual abuse, and the bishop of the Diocese of Duluth.
Verne Wagner, the northern Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent an e-mail to St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin on Monday requesting an investigation.
“I would ask your office to investigate with what tools you have available this reported crime,” Wagner wrote to Rubin.
The Diocese of Duluth announced on Oct. 6 that the Rev. Cornelius Kelleher had been removed from the ministry after being “credibly accused in the sexual abuse of a minor female during his time as a pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Chisholm from 1975 to 1986.”
Wagner’s e-mail requested that the attorney’s office investigate not only Kelleher, but also Bishop Paul Sirba for possible state and federal crimes. Rather than immediately notifying the authorities, Sirba hired a private investigator and waited 14 months to report the crime, Wagner said.
“Since when is it OK not to report child abuse immediately and then conduct your own investigation rather than call the police to do this?” Wagner asked. “By doing this, the bishop tampered with possible evidence and witnesses.”
Last week, Sirba and a diocese spokesman said the diocese contracted privately with a police officer to investigate the allegations, but said it was not a law enforcement investigation.
Rubin told the News Tribune last week that his office would have to look at the specifics of the case before determining if any criminal charges are warranted. It’s possible that the statute of limitations could pre-empt criminal charges, he said.