Releasing Names of Priests Accused of Abuse Will Not End Pressure on Church
By Jean Hopfensperger
The Star Tribune
December 8, 2013
The naming Thursday of 32 priests accused of child sex abuse in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese will not end the pressure on the Catholic Church in Minnesota.
More than twice that number who served in other dioceses across the state and have been similarly accused have yet to be publicly named. And victims’ advocates charge that the archdiocese’s list was incomplete.
“Victims are already asking, ‘Why isn’t the cleric who hurt me on the newly disclosed list?’ ” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Thursday’s disclosure was an unprecedented step that had been tenaciously resisted by the archdiocese for years. It took place only after a judge presiding over an abuse case ordered that the list be made public. For some victims and church members, the moment was cathartic, but more wrenching disclosures are coming.
Another list is expected to go public this week, when the Diocese of Winona said it will unseal at least 13 names of accused priests, under the same Ramsey County Court order that required the Twin Cities archdiocese to act.
Lawsuits against the Duluth and New Ulm dioceses demanding that their lists be unsealed have scheduled court dates next month. A case against the Diocese of Crookston awaits a judge’s ruling.
“There is increased pressure, and increased permission, for other bishops to follow what has happened here,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney at Anderson Advocates, the St. Paul firm handling abuse cases.
Added Clohessy: “Four or five other judges will be confronting the same choice. It puts more pressure on more judges and bishops.”
The dioceses’ lists cover the period from 1950 to 2002. A separate list exists of clergy credibly accused of abuse after 2004. “Credibly accused” means the church believes there is evidence that abuse occurred, not necessarily that the case was proved in court.
Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso said church officials expect to add more names to their list and are open to receiving more names.
Some church observers argue that the archdiocese list remains incomplete.
Patrick Marker, an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, said three monks from St. John’s Abbey are not listed despite prior acknowledgment by the archdiocese that they were accused of child sexual abuse that occurred in the Twin Cities.
“It’s impossible that this is a comprehensive list,” said Marker, who operates behindthepinecurtain.com, which focuses on abusive monks at St. John’s.
Among the names that should be on the list is the Rev. Thomas Gillespie, he said. Marker said he received a document from St. John’s officials while he was a member of the St. John’s Abbey External Review Board that said Gillespie admitted to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy in Stillwater. A settlement in the case was reached in 1997, the document said.
It said the abuse occurred in 1978, when Gillespie was listed as a priest at St. Bernard’s in St. Paul and as pastor at St. Mary’s in Stillwater.
Accurso said Friday that he would give Gillespie’s name to officials at the chancery.
“The disclosure process is only beginning, and this may be helpful to that effort,” Accurso said.
The late Robert Blumeyer is another St. John’s monk who should be added to the list, Marker said. In 2006, the abbey announced that a 50-year-old man had reported that he was sexually abused by Blumeyer beginning in 1969 when Blumeyer was at St. Bartholomew’s in Wayzata. Blumeyer died in 1983.
Another omission, said Marker, is the Rev. Michael Bik. The Abbey made his name public in 2006 after he was accused of having sexual contact with two teenagers while teaching at two parishes in the archdiocese. The alleged contact took place before his ordination and arrival at St. John’s.
Accurso didn’t comment directly on Blumeyer or Bik, but said the names of all priests with credible claims against them will be disclosed.
“The disclosures made today are not intended to be final,” Archbishop John Nienstedt said in statement issued Thursday when the list was made public. “We are currently engaged in a comprehensive review of clergy files, and the list will be updated as additional announcements are made.”
Accurso also declined to comment on whether the Rev. Michael J. Keating, a prominent Catholic Studies professor at the University of St. Thomas, will be added to the list. Keating took a leave from his job at the university after he was sued this fall by a woman who contends Keating abused her starting when she was 13. The university is investigating the circumstances around Keating’s employment and whether the archdiocese disclosed to the school that it had investigated allegations against him.
Other dioceses face demands
Other dioceses may choose to include religious orders if and when they release their lists. Currently there are 13 accused priests in the diocese of Winona, 26 in St. Cloud, 17 in Duluth, 12 in New Ulm and five in Crookston, said Finnegan.
Prying loose those lists is a goal of lawsuits filed in those dioceses, he said. They include:
• Three women who are suing the diocese of New Ulm. They claim the late Rev. David Roney abused them when they were girls in the 1970s.
• A man who is suing the diocese of Duluth. He accused the late Rev. John Nicholson of molesting him in the 1970s when he was a boy.
• A man whose suit claiming that the Rev. James Porter sexually abused him as a child. The case has been heard and awaits a judge’s decision. Porter, who died in 2005, was convicted of abusing 28 boys and was accused of abusing many more in Minnesota, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
No pending abuse case demands a release of the priest list in the St. Cloud diocese, but that likely will change, Finnegan said.
In every diocese in the state, the list being requested was compiled in 2004 at the request of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The secret lists were compiled by dioceses and archdioceses based on their own standards of what constitutes a credible accusation.
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