Statement: Disclosure Of Four Former Priests Accused Of Sexual Abuse

By Jim Accurso
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
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.


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