Abuse Victims Want Answers from Duluth Bishop

June 16, 2014


Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will blast Duluth's Catholic bishop for

–-waiting two weeks to suspend an accused predator priest, and

–-letting his top aide publicly praise the priest which deters other victims from speaking up.

They will also

--plead with anyone who may have information or suspicions about the priest to speak up now,

--urge the bishop to disclose the names of every child molesting cleric in the diocese and permanently post their names on his website, and

--beg every person who saw, suspected and suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Minnesota (especially current and ex-Catholic employees) to come forward, call police, protect others and start healing.


Monday June 16 at 1:30 p.m.


Outside the Duluth Diocese main office at 2830 East 4th street in Duluth


Verne Wagner a clergy sex abuse victim and Northern MN Director of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (


A Catholic priest has just been suspended from his post at a local church and a hospital because of allegations that he molested a Minnesota boy years ago. Victims believe he should have been vetted better and suspended sooner. They also want Duluth's bishop – and a local hospital - to aggressively seek out others the priest may have hurt and urge them to call police and prosecutors.



Last month, parents of a former member of the St. John's Boys' Choir came forward charging that Fr. Timothy Backous had inappropriate sexual contact with their son in the 1990s on a choir trip. The choir is affiliated with St. John's Abbey in St. Cloud Minnesota. The parents were prompted to act when they learned that Fr. Backous had said mass in late May at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. They immediately wrote and complained to Archbishop John Nienstedt and current St. John's Abbot John Klassen.

The parents, Chris and Kathy McDermid, originally learned of the abuse around 1991. They approached the head of St. John's who agreed to pay for their son's counseling and promised the parents that Fr. Backous would no longer work with or around kids.

Last week, the current head of St John Abbey wrote that the allegations against Fr. Backous had never been proven and that Backous is a priest in good standing working under no restrictions.

When Fr. Backous was suspended, he was working at Essentia Hospital in Duluth (formerly owned by the Benedictine Sisters) and St. Michael's parish, both in Duluth.

SNAP wants Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba to use parish bulletins, pulpit announcements and the diocesan websites to prod victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call law enforcement with any information or suspicions they may have about Fr. Backous. The group wants hospital officials to take similar steps.

From 2006 until 2013, Fr. Backous was the headmaster of St. John's Preparatory School in St. Cloud MN.

Finally, SNAP is disappointed that a high ranking Duluth diocesan official, Fr. James Bissonette, claimed (in a statement posted on the diocese’s website this week) that Fr. Backous “has carried out his duties here … in an exemplary manner and consistent with his vows and responsibilities.” Such comments, make it harder for those who see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes or cover ups to speak up, expose wrongdoers and protect kids.” Catholic officials should say nothing that discourages those with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes to get the help they need and to help law enforcement catch pedophiles.

Months ago, based on Bishop Sirba's involvement in Minneapolis/St. Paul abuse cases, SNAP urged Duluth area prosecutors to investigate how he is handling and has handled clergy sex abuse in the diocese and whether he or his staff have broken or are breaking any laws.








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