Confidential Church Documents Detail Abuse

By Julie Nelson and Steve Eckert
February 11, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Ramsey County judge is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on whether top Catholic Church officials should be forced to testify under oath in a civil case brought by an abuse victim.

On the eve of the hearing, KARE 11 News has obtained confidential church records documenting a pattern of abuse that dates back decades.

At the center, two alleged victims. Two accused priests. And one stunning swap.

Before sitting down with KARE 11, Sally Olson had never told her story publicly. She says she was abused when she was just 15 when a priest approached her after confession.

"We had finished confession and he grabbed me and he brought me toward him," she says. "And held me and said, 'I am going to kiss you.' And he did."

Sally says she's decided to speak out now because she thinks her case is part of a disturbing pattern of cover-ups by the church.

"At some point you have to say: No more."

We wanted to know more about Sally's story, so KARE 11 has been reviewing documents that show she was just one of more than a dozen women - and teenagers - allegedly preyed upon over the years by Father Richard Jeub.

Internal church records list vulnerable women with whom he was "sexually active". They include:

  • A woman "blind with diabetes"
  • A "student nurse he befriended"
  • "The wife" of a heart attack victim when Father Jeub was "a hospital chaplain"
  • Even a "nun he was counseling"
Father Jeub has denied the most serious allegations.

But under oath, in a deposition we found, he admitted "kissing" several teenage girls "on the lips" repeatedly. Including Sally.

"I then went home," Sally remembers, "and thought: I'm never gonna talk about this for the rest of my life."

Years later, when Sally finally had the courage to report her abuse to the church, she agreed to settle her case quietly in return for cash – and, she says, an important promise from a top church official, Father Kevin McDonough.

"I know Father McDonough looked at me and said: He will never be in another parish with a school attached to it."

Turns out, Sally isn't the only one who claims to have gotten a promise like that.

Al Michaud says he was just 15 when he was abused in a swimming pool by a different priest, Father Jerome Kern.

"That was his M.O," Al said. "He somehow liked to get kids in water. 'Cause what happens below the water you can't see."

But church records obtained by KARE 11 show that Al wasn't Father Kern's first victim. Almost a decade earlier local parents had sent a handwritten letter to church officials.

It accused Father Kern of taking two boys "swimming" at Lake Nokomis and putting his hand "under (one boy's) suit" and "inside" the other boy's "jeans".

After the complaint, the Archdiocese decided to transfer Father Kern. It was 1969, about the same time Father Jeub was kissing Sally.

Ironically, the two priests simply swapped parishes.

Al says that left Father Kern free to target more boys -- including him. "All they did with these priests is shuffle them around."

When he reported the abuse to the church years later, Al says he met with the same church official as Sally had -- Father Kevin McDonough.

"He had a file on his table," Al remembers. "He's flipping through pages in his file and telling me all these incidents of Father Kern before I was even abused."

Al says he was stunned. He sued and settled quietly, just like Sally – with a promise, he says, that Father Kern would never be assigned to a parish with children again.

That was back in 1994. So, we wondered: what actually happened to the two priests?

Turns out, in spite of those promises, both Father Kern and Father Jeub were reassigned again - to other local parishes with schools.

They served until 2002, when the St. Paul Pioneer Press revealed there had been allegations against them.

So why are past victims coming forward now?

Sally says she was watching the news recently when St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith publicly accused the church of not cooperating with investigators. The name of one person Chief Smith singled out hit her like a thunderbolt. Kevin McDonough. The same church official who'd met years ago with both Sally and Al.

"Kevin McDonough," Al asks now, "You knew Father Kern was a sexual predator. Yet you said nothing, and did nothing, when he was put back in a parish?"

Sally says the church played a shell game. "You just switched the predators."

Both victims think what happened after they reported abuse is even worse than the abuse itself.

"That's horrible and terrible in and of itself. But what happened afterwards is the real shame of it all," says Al. "And there's people sitting on that hill – the Cathedral on the hill – that aren't being held accountable for this."


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