Disclosure Of Four Former Priests Accused Of Sexual Abuse
By Jim Accurso
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul
March 31, 2014
Today, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis provided
clergy file documents in a Ramsey County District Court civil
case. This release is the first of several that will happen in
the coming weeks, and pertains to four men who were previously
disclosed on the archdiocesan website in December and February
with substantiated claims of sexual abuse. This information was
gathered through clergy file documents provided to the court.
- Paul Palmitessa, who, in October 1988, roughly two
years before the archdiocese had received any allegation of
sexual misconduct, changed his residence and the location of
his priestly ministry from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and
Minneapolis and became an active priest in the Diocese of San
Diego. In August 1990, an adult male reported to the
archdiocese that Palmitessa had engaged in inappropriate sexual
contact with him in 1982, when he was a minor. The archdiocese
later learned that the Goodhue County Sheriff’s
Department had learned of and investigated these allegations in
August 1982, but that victim chose not to pursue charges or
report the allegations to the archdiocese because he did not
want his community to know about the abuse. As soon as we were
advised of the alleged abuse we communicated the allegations to
the Diocese of San Diego. Tragically, in May 1999 the victim of
Palmitessa’s abuse killed his wife and committed suicide.
The archdiocese has received reports that Palmitessa may have
abused others. Palmitessa was removed from ministry by the
Diocese of San Diego.
- Kenneth LaVan, about whom the archdiocese received
reports in 1988 that he had abused two girls between 1958 and
1970. In 1989 and 1992, the archdiocese settled civil suits
brought by the two victims. The archdiocese removed LaVan from
ministry in early 1989 and required him to undergo treatment.
After completion of treatment he was returned to parish
ministry at St. Joseph in Lino Lakes with monitoring. LaVan
retired in January 1998, but continued to provide limited
assistance at St. Olaf in Minneapolis (and other parishes as
requested) until December 2013. LaVan has also been accused of
inappropriate sexual relationships with adult women, including
a woman who suffered from mental illness and a brain injury.
Further questions and concerns are unable to be determined by a
review of the file.
- John Michael Stevens, was removed from public ministry
in August 1987, after the archdiocese learned from the
victim’s mother that Stevens had sexually abused her son,
a mentally challenged minor. With the encouragement of the
archdiocese, in October 1987, the mother authorized the
reporting of the allegation to the Anoka County Sheriff’s
Department. Stevens was charged and pled guilty to fourth
degree criminal sexual conduct in December 1987. Stevens was
not returned to parish ministry and participates in monitoring
and ongoing therapy. Documents in Stevens’ file dated
after the 1987 abuse incident reveal that Stevens has struggled
with attraction to grade school age boys, social isolation and
other issues. Stevens was permanently prohibited from all
priestly ministry in 2002 as was reported in the media at the
time. He subsequently worked as an archdiocesan IT consultant
until November 2013.
- Curtis Wehmeyer, who, as has been publicly reported by
the archdiocese and the media, pleaded guilty to all charges of
criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography
brought against him in 2012. He is currently in prison and is
prohibited from all priestly ministry. Subsequent to his
appointment as pastor in 2009, Wehmeyer showed personal
behavioral issues, including drug and alcohol use, anger
management and personality struggles, as well as sexual
impropriety not involving minors. In June 2012, the archdiocese
was informed of accusations of sexual abuse of a minor made
against Wehmeyer and timely reported this information to St.
Paul police. The archdiocese cooperated with the police
investigation, and Wehmeyer was immediately removed from all
public ministry. The archdiocese has provided and continues to
provide financial support for counseling for Wehmeyer’s
victims and their family.
The archdiocese deeply regrets the egregious acts of
these men and the unimaginable harm suffered by victims, their
families and their communities. We will never cease our
apologies to all affected.
As we continue this
disclosure process, we aim to reach out to all affected parties
to continue to promote the protection of children, the healing
of victims and the restoration of trust of the faithful and our
clergy who are serving our communities nobly and with honor.