Bishop: Policy Was Followed

By Bishop John F. Kinney
St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, MN)
December 13, 2002

The Times' Wednesday Our View "Local diocese must answer questions about priest" implied the Diocese of St. Cloud has not followed its policies and procedures in the case of the Rev. Donald Rieder, and has something to hide. That is not the case.

Because the Times did not confirm its facts, it misrepresented the diocese's actions, and I want to set the record straight.

Review of this case may very well suggest changes for the diocese. In fact, our Diocesan Review Board is examining the process, policies and procedures under which this case was handled to recommend changes and improvements. Our consistent and emphatic goal has been, and remains, the protection of children, young people and vulnerable persons. Sexual misconduct will not be tolerated, and we will do everything in our power to make sure people in our church are safe from such misconduct.

Accusations against Rieder first came to the attention of the diocese in 1992, when two adult women alleged they had been abused as children, one of whom was Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen. The diocese followed the policies and procedures it had in place at that time, including confronting Rieder and sending him for professional evaluation The evaluation recommended that the diocese monitor Rieder, and that if there was any additional allegation, he should be sent for treatment.

Assurances were given to Fuchs-Hoeschen in 1992 that Rieder would be monitored and removed from ministry if any new allegations came forward. No new allegations came forward until April of this year (2002), at which point I immediately removed Rieder from public ministry as the diocese had promised.

When Rieder retired from parish ministry in 1995, he volunteered as a chaplain at St. Cloud Hospital on his own initiative, and not by appointment. There had been no accusations made against Rieder since 1992, and under the terms in place at that time, there was no reason to remove him from ministry or bring his case to my attention.

Under the diocese's policies as they are currently being revised, allegations against any cleric will immediately be brought to my attention and the attention of the proper authorities. Earlier this year, I ordered a thorough review of all the diocese's cleric personnel files, past and present, which is nearly complete. I will continue working with my vicar general, the Rev. Marvin Enneking, and our Diocesan Review Board to examine our current policies and procedures, and seek every opportunity to improve them for the protection of all.

The Catholic Church in our country has been working on these issues for more than 15 years. The steps taken in Dallas, and last month in Washington, are only the latest steps in the Catholic Church's ongoing and tireless efforts to address the issue of sexual misconduct.

As bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, I will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind, and I will continue to make sure our diocese is doing everything it can to safeguard people from such abuse. I am also firmly committed to transparency in our efforts, and will never shield perpetrators from prosecution where it is warranted.


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