Parishioners of Priest Investigated for Child Porn Get Answers from St. Paul-mpls. Archdiocese
By Jean Hopfensperger
February 22, 2016
Twin Cities archdiocese leaders met with parishioners at St. William Catholic Church in Fridley on Sunday, following last week's announcement that their priest is under investigation for possible possession of child pornography.
Twin Cities archdiocese leaders met with parishioners at St. William Catholic Church in Fridley on Sunday, following last week’s announcement that their priest is under investigation for possible possession of child pornography.
The priest was temporarily removed from ministry Thursday after Edina police searched his home. He is not identified by the Star Tribune because he has not been arrested or charged. According to a search warrant affidavit, he admitted to police he had viewed pornography on his computer.
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens and Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s head of child safety standards, answered questions about future operations of the church and why the archdiocese didn’t tell parishioners sooner about the investigation. Edina police met with officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Feb. 6; parishioners were notified Friday.
“I explained the situation that … as requested by Edina Police Department, we did not take action that could have interfered with that investigation,” O’Malley said. O’Malley, a former chief of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said the archdiocese followed its new child safety protocols.
An Edina police spokesperson confirmed the request.
With no parish priest, St. William’s parishioners found Cozzens celebrating two Sunday masses and participating in an informational meeting in the sanctuary Sunday afternoon.
The people in the pews had mixed emotions about their pastor, described as a quiet man who served St. William for about two years.
“Within the parish, there’s a full range of emotions — curiosity, sadness, anger, uncertainty,” said Anne Stevenson, who attended the meeting.
The meeting was helpful in answering the many questions people had, she said.
Parishioners were notified the day after the priest’s Edina home was searched for evidence of child pornography. Police confiscated his computer, phone, CDs and DVDs.
Police had been called to his home on at least four occasions in the past few years after neighbors reported what they described as the sound of a child crying and “in distress,” according to the affidavit.
The priest met Thursday evening with interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda and O’Malley and “agreed to take a leave of absence in a manner that would minimize the likelihood that the nature of the investigation would be apparent, thereby honoring the police department’s request,” O’Malley said.
The priest has been barred from priestly duties, including wearing his clerical collar or representing himself as a priest.
Jennifer Bennerotte, spokesperson for the Edina Police Department, said results from the police search could be available this week.