Half of Metro Parishes Touched by Scandal
December 5, 2013
[Doe 1 Order Releasing Names of Credibly Accused Priests]
On Thursday, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will comply with a court order to name priests who have been sued, criminally charged, or publicly identified in a child sex abuse case by releasing a list of names and locations where each credibly accused priest worked.
Some Catholics in the metro area may be in for a shock because half of the parishes in the state -- 92 of 188 -- have been notified that at least one of the men touched by the sex abuse scandal was assigned to their church.
"It's going to shock them -- the level and depth of clergy abuse that surrounds them," Bob Schwiderski, of the victims' advocacy group SNAP, said.
For some parishes, like St. Wenceslaus in New Prague, Minn., multiple priests allegedly passed through -- including Father Clarence Vavra, now 74, who admitted to molesting several boys in the 1970s at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The Archdiocese never told police of Vavra's admission. Instead, church officials moved him like an old couch -- 17 different assignments in 38 years, which is a pattern that reappears with many of the 33 names on the list. Vavra is retired now, but he still lives a couple blocks away from the church he grew up in.
"They're making me a scapegoat for their mishandling," Vavra said of the Archdiocese. "Whatever I've done wrong, I've paid for it 100,000 times by now with the work I've done."
According to Schwiderski, the parishioners at St. Wenceslaus may be in for one of the biggest shocks because he says that was one of many parishes that become dumping grounds for pedophile priests.
"New Prague may've had four or five," he said.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has refused to release the names for the last decade, and four of the names still will not be released. That's because the church believes the allegations are unsubstantiated against 3 priests and there is no record of the fourth name serving in the diocese. At least 9 of the priests on the list are now dead.
Schwiderski worries that those may become additional sins of omission -- and he wonders what will become of those temporarily assigned to the Chancery, like Father Joseph Wajda.
"We know that one of Joseph Wajda's victims was abused at his grandmother's funeral," Schwiderski said.
Overall, advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse say the move to release the names is long overdue, but they remain skeptical and wonder whether the release will specify whether a parish also has a school.
It's all but certain that once the names and dates are public, critics will connect the dots to Archbishops John Nienstedt, Harry Flynn and John Roach. Meanwhile, it's more than likely that whatever answers are uncovered, more questions will soon follow.
The Diocese of Winona must also release a similar list of 13 accused priests by Dec. 17, and the Diocese of Crookston, New Ulm, Duluth and St. Cloud also has a list that could soon come out.
So far, about 107 priests statewide are suspected of molesting children. Fox 9 News will publish the lists as soon as they become available.