Priest ‘failed’ to protect kids from abuse, archdiocese investigation finds

Bring Me the News [Edina MN]

June 4, 2021

By Melissa Turtinen

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul said Rev. Kevin McDonough should be barred from positions where he’s tasked at protecting kids.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has finished its review into Rev. Kevin McDonough, finding he “failed, albeit not intentionally, to adequately keep children safe.”

McDonough, who has not been accused of abuse, was the vicar general for the archdiocese from 1991-2008, and from 2008-2013 he was the delegate for safe environment. He was responsible for overseeing investigations related to reports of priest sexual abuse and misconduct, and providing support services to abuse survivors. 

The Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board (MRB) conducted a “comprehensive investigation and examination” of McDonough’s role in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, Tim O’Malley, director of ministerial standards and safe environment, said in a June 3 news release.

The MRB found McDonough “had not always demonstrated sufficiently sound judgment in handling allegations of ministerial misconduct or in attending to his duties to prevent harm and create safer environments,” O’Malley said. 

“Based on concerns about Father McDonough’s past conduct while in leadership, the MRB also concluded that Father McDonough failed, albeit not intentionally, to adequately keep children safe and recommended that he should be barred from similar leadership roles at the Archdiocesan level going forward,” O’Malley said.

As a result of the investigation, the MPB concluded McDonough “does not present a risk” and recommends he “be considered fit for his current assignment in parish ministry at Incarnation parish in Minneapolis,” the release says.

This investigation involved reviewing emails, letters and court filings; speaking with two survivors about their concerns about McDonough; and reviewing his interactions with offending priests.

When McDonough held safe environment leadership positions decisions were made on a number of priests accused of misconduct, including Curtis Wehmeyer. Wehmeyer was convicted of sexual abuse against three juvenile victims when he was a priest. 

The cases led to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filing criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese in 2015, saying it failed to protect children. McDonough’s name was mentioned more than 120 times in the criminal complaint, which also cited past actions of other archdiocese leaders. 

O’Malley said for a number of years the archdiocese received inquiries about his role in the clergy abuse crisis, which came to a head in 2013 when Minnesota passed a law that lifted the statute of limitations, giving past victims of child sexual abuse three years to sue.

More than 900 people made abuse claims during those three years, MPR News reported. As a result, more than 100 priests with ties to the archdiocese were named publicly after being credibly accused of abuse. Many of them had already died. 

The scandal not only led to criminal charges against the archdiocese, but also led to Archbishop John Nienstedt’s resignation and the archdiocese declaring bankruptcy. 

The MRB “urged” McDonough to “consider his level of responsibility and take steps to promote greater healing in the archdiocese,” such as participating in a “restorative justice effort.” O’Malley says McDonough, two clergy sexual abuse survivors and two priests participated in a meeting led by retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and restorative justice expert Janine Geske in May 2021. 

McDonough was ordained a priest for the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1980. In addition to working in archdiocesan administration, he was the pastor at St. Peter Claver Church in St. Paul for 26 years and became the pastor at Church of the Incarnation in south Minneapolis in 2010, the church’s website says

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has a website dedicated to being a safe environment for children.