Charges against Archdiocese in Minn. Church Abuse
January 29, 2014
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — Ramsey
County authorities will not be charging the Archdiocese of St.
Paul and Minneapolis for its handling of the case of a priest
who was later convicted of sexually abusing two children.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said they do not have
sufficient evidence to file charges, based off new information.
Choi made clear Wednesday at a press conference that
they would only be discussing the case of the Rev. Curtis
Wehmeyer and how and when it came to their attention.
A police timeline shows that a church official
followed the law by reporting the abuse within 24 hours. Still,
Choi criticized the Archdiocese.
“Although today there’s no criminal liability for the
specific facts presented here, I continue to be troubled by some
of the church’s reporting practices that manifest and some of
the other cases that are currently under investigation and in
this case as well,” he said.
The Wehmeyer case is among several that have come to
light in recent months that have raised questions about the
archdiocese’s handling of problem priests over the years. Choi
said in more recent cases, there’s been more cooperation from
the Archdiocese regarding police investigation.
However, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said there
certainly could be more.
State law requires members of the archdiocese to
report allegations of sexual abuse against a minor immediately,
which means as soon as possible but not longer than 24 hours
after they were told. St. Paul Police investigated the timeline
to report in this case relating to Father Wehmeyer, which
occurred in May and June of 2012.
Wehmeyer, the former pastor of The Church of the
Blessed Sacrament on St. Paul’s East Side, was charged in
September 2012 and pleaded guilty that same year to criminal
sexual conduct involving two brothers. Wehmeyer also pleaded
guilty to having child pornography and is now serving a
five-year prison sentence.
The charges said Wehmeyer molested one boy and exposed
himself to the other in the summer of 2010. Wehmeyer was removed
from his parish post in June 2012 after church authorities
learned of the allegations.
But internal church documents show archdiocese leaders
knew well before then that Wehmeyer had issues with sexual
misconduct. In 2008, a church employee who was reviewing priest
files warned church officials that Wehmeyer’s file contained
documents noting he had a sexual addiction and had violated the
archdiocese’s code of conduct several times. Among other things,
Wehmeyer had solicited young men for sex in a bookstore and had
cruised a park for anonymous sex.
But despite that, he was allowed to remain in ministry
and was promoted to pastor in 2009.
In a Sept. 27, 2013, letter, Archbishop John Nienstedt
said he didn’t suspect Wehmeyer was a risk to children when he
named him pastor and it was clear in hindsight that Wehmeyer
shouldn’t have been in active ministry. He apologized for not
handling the matter more aggressively.
Attorney Jeff Anderson who represents Wehmeyer’s
victims says Archdiocese officials should have been charged for
covering up past allegations.
“It’s a very disturbing day,” he said.
Anderson lashed out against former Vicar General Kevin
McDonough, who documents show told Wehmeyer he was about to be
arrested. Wehmeyer then removed his trailer from the church
“There was an active obstruction of justice by Kevin
McDonough and Archdiocese officials,” Anderson said.
Choi said no action would be taken against McDonough
or other officials because their actions did not interfere with
There will also be no charges in another high profile
case involving a local priest, Father
John Shelley. A letter from the Washington County Attorney says
none of the images on Shelley’s computer contained child
The Archdiocese released a statement saying it is
gratified for the “clearing of the cases involving Wehmeyer and
Shelley” and continue to cooperate with all investigations.
Through his attorney, Father Shelley said he is
pleased with the decision and looks forward to a life free of
unfair suspicion. McDonough could not be reached for comment.
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