In a First, New Ulm Diocese Names Four Clergy Sex Offenders
By Jean Hopfensperger
March 13, 2015
The Diocese of New Ulm has quietly released the names of four priests accused of child sex abuse, marking its first public disclosure of any such names.
It remains the only Minnesota diocese that has not made public its full list of priest sex abusers. A list was compiled a decade ago, when now-Archbishop John Nienstedt oversaw the New Ulm diocese as bishop.
Parishioners received notices in their church bulletins about the priests: Dennis Becker, David Roney, John Murphy and Michael Skoblik.
Becker was a new face; he had not been previously identified by alleged victims of abuse. The other three had. All are deceased except Becker, who served from 1964 until 2000, when he retired from active ministry, the diocese reported.
The priests served at more than 20 churches in cities including Willmar, Redwood Falls and Montevideo. The four priests are named in 12 pending lawsuits against the diocese, said a diocese news release. The abuses occurred “decades ago,” it said.
The diocese, headed by Nienstedt from 2001 to 2007, had identified 12 priests accused of sexual misconduct with children in a 2004 report to U.S. Catholic Bishops, said St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson. The diocese did not respond to inquiries about the other names.
“The diocese has been diligent in its efforts to establish a safe environment program that educates clergy, diocesan and parish staff, teachers, parents, students, and volunteers who work with minors,” the diocese said in a written statement.
Anderson said he was pleased that the diocese chose to release the four names, but criticized the way they were released “under the radar” with no announcement to the broader public.
“It’s the right thing to make a disclosure, but it’s not creating public awareness,” said Anderson, who questioned why the names of the other priests still have not been disclosed.
Anderson’s office is representing 20 people who allegedly were abused by priests in the New Ulm diocese. His firm has filed seven lawsuits against the diocese, he said, and another 11 are pending.