Another Local Priest Accused; Another Cover-up?
By Blake McCoy
October 29, 2013
[lawsuit and documents]
[press conference video]
Another lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis alleging a cover-up of child sex abuse in the priesthood.
"I applaud Jane Doe 23 for coming forward," attorney Michael Finnegan said.
Jane Doe 23 had never confronted her abuse until seeing recent media reports. That's when she decided to Google her alleged abuser. She discovered that Father Robert Thurner had abused before and the Archdiocese covered it up.
Internal documents dating back to 1982 show the archbishop at the time, John Roach, knew of the abuse against one boy at St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins. The confidential documents reveal Thurner's admission to the archbishop saying, "He had a brief sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy and had also purchased liquor for that boy."
Archbishop Roach went on to write, "Father Thurner reviewed with me a fairly long history of anger, depression and ambivalence about sexuality."
So what happened to Thurner?
Archbishop Roach in 1982 recommended treatment and allowed him to continue in the priesthood. Thurner was transferred to a new parish, the Church of St. Joseph in West St. Paul.
"They kept it secret that Father Thurner was a child molester. They didn't report it to the police and they didn't warn any of the parishioners or the public," said Finnegan.
Father Thurner went on to abuse again. Two lawsuits were settled in the early 1990s, at which time Thurner was forced to retire.
Today, that woman known as Doe 23, is the latest victim to come forward saying she was abused in her family home in the 2nd grade.
"They made choices to give Thurner safe harbor," said attorney Jeff Anderson, who settled those cases in the early 90s and believes Thurner is still being supported by the Archdiocese. "We think he lives at the St. Thomas campus."
Anderson believes jail time is necessary for those in the Archdiocese to finally wake up.
"To be held accountable in the criminal law, to hear the jail door clang behind them, so the other bishops and the other top officials can finally get the message that you cannot be complicit in the crimes."
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis refuses to make its files on priest sex abuse public. Current Archbishop John Nienstedt has appointed a task force and ordered a review of church protocol.