Statement Regarding Mpr Report on Accused Clergy
By Jim Accurso
Roman Catholic Archdiocese
February 21, 2014
Consistent with the paramount goal of protecting children, the archdiocese has committed to the public disclosure of clergy members against whom claims of sexual abuse of a minor have been found to be substantiated.
The archdiocese has been clear and consistent in defining “credible” and “substantiated” claims of sexual abuse of a minor. Following the report made to appropriate law enforcement, the first step in our internal evaluation is to determine whether the claim is credible. A credible claim is one that is not manifestly false or frivolous. In other words, it is not blatantly false. Separate from our internal evaluation process, any claim whether credible or not, is immediately reported to police.
If the archdiocese determines that a credible claim exists, the archdiocese opens an investigation to determine whether a claim is substantiated. A substantiated claim is one for which sufficient evidence exists to establish reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged abuse occurred.
Following an initial disclosure of 30 clergy members in December 2013, the archdiocese publicly disclosed an additional 9 priests on February 17, 2014, following a comprehensive file review by Kinsale, an experienced outside national firm. Kinsale’s file review is ongoing and we will continue to make prudent and ongoing disclosures as we proceed forward.
In a February 19, 2014 on-line article, MPR states that the public disclosures made by the archdiocese are, to date, incomplete. In support of its position, MPR identifies a total of 28 clergy members who have not been publicly disclosed by the archdiocese and against whom MPR claims that it has “found allegations of child sexual abuse and other sexual improprieties.”
This statement is wrong and misleading. The 28 clergy members identified by MPR have not been publicly disclosed by the archdiocese because they do not, to date, constitute substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor. For context:
The archdiocese has, to date, publicly disclosed 43 clergy members (39 of them having substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor). MPR incorrectly claims that an additional 28 clergy members should have been disclosed.
At least 16 of the 28 clergy members identified by MPR were the subject of false, meritless or unsubstantiated accusations against them. And those accusations made known to the archdiocese after 2004 have been properly filed with Ramsey County District Court.
In addition to those individuals already disclosed to the Court, over 10 of the clergy identified by MPR are not from our archdiocese and the allegations against them concern alleged conduct that occurred outside of this archdiocese. In these cases, the accused clergy members are subject to the authority of other orders and dioceses and, consistent with the policy that we have previously announced to the public, the archdiocese does not have sufficient information or even jurisdiction to determine whether those foreign claims are credible or have been substantiated. As MPR correctly observes, several of these individuals have already been publicly disclosed by their respective dioceses and orders.
At least two of the 28 clergy members identified by MPR have never even served as clergy members in our archdiocese. James Porter, who never held an assignment in the archdiocese, merely resided as a lay person in the St. Paul area for a period time. Thomas Kemp was never an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, although he falsely represented himself to be a deacon.
While there are many individuals who have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct in the MPR report, three specific examples illustrate the injustice of publicly identifying them in the report. Allegations of sexual abuse by Bishop Paul Dudley, now deceased, were thoroughly investigated and ultimately found to be baseless following a review by a retired judge. Allegations against Father Gerald Grieman, now retired, were reported to the New Brighton Police Department and determined to be without merit. And allegations concerning Father Robert Hazel, also retired, were referred to the police for investigation. That investigation was concluded and no charges were filed when the police determined that the claims had no basis.
With the engagement of the Kinsale team, the archdiocese continues to work on fulfilling the public promises we have made to create safe environments for children, care for victims, facilitate a healing process for our local church in order to restore trust with the Catholic faithful, and restore trust with clergy who are serving honorably. In the event any of the claims against 28 of the clergy members identified by MPR are substantiated, they will be disclosed on our website according to our policy.
The archdiocese is dedicated to accurate and responsible reporting of clergy against whom substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor have been made. MPR’s reporting of inaccurate information, which improperly identifies individuals, is irresponsible and does not serve victims, safety of children or the public good. For these wrongly accused individuals, we seek the same due process, justice and dignity granted to other citizens.
The public should be assured that in making the disclosures we have made since December, we are aware of and have used the information contained in various lists that were prepared by the archdiocese. We also have been proactive, especially over the last year, in our process to identify and track claims made by victims to the archdiocese. The hiring of Kinsale, and its review of nearly 800 files to date, is evidence of this fact.
And it is our policy, as articulated on multiple occasions and on our website, that anyone who suspects abuse of a minor should first call civil authorities.
VIRTUS training and other procedures put in place by the archdiocese over the last decade have had a material, positive impact in dramatically reducing any incidents of abuse. We are appreciative of the tens of thousands of volunteers, staff members and clergy who have proactively engaged in this training for the safety of our children and youth.