Judge to St. Cloud diocese: Turn over files

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
April 6, 2016

A Stearns County judge has ordered the Diocese of St. Cloud to turn over the files of all priests who have been accused of the sexual abuse of children.

And in a separate order, a different judge has denied the diocese's request to dismiss a claim that it created a "public nuisance" by not telling the public about child-molesting priests with connections to the diocese.

The orders, filed within the last week, mean that lawyers representing clergy sex abuse victims will have a chance to review those files and release portions to the public. In one other Minnesota diocese, the release of similar files led to criminal charges.

The two decisions are a "one-two punch to the long-standing practices of concealment and deceit by the Diocese of St. Cloud,” said Attorney Jeff Anderson.

Stearns County District Court Judge Kris Davick-Halfen ordered the diocese to turn over the priest files by April 25. She also ordered that the files be subject to a protective order that helps prevent potentially embarrassing information from becoming public.

The request for the priest files is part of a "public nuisance" claim against the diocese in a lawsuit involving the Rev. James Thoennes.

A former student at a Foley elementary school in January 2015 sued Thoennes, accusing him of abusing the student years after the diocese knew Thoennes had abused other children.

Stearns County District Court Judge Frederick Grunke's order allows a public nuisance claim to proceed in a separate case involving former Rev. Donald Rieder. A woman who was sexually abused by Rieder in the late 1960s when she was 14 sued the diocese in August.

Grunke denied a motion from the diocese to dismiss the nuisance claim.



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