Blueprint for Coverup? - 5 Eyewitness News
March 3, 2005

A 5 Eyewitness News investigation reveals secrets at the highest level of the Catholic Church. We obtained a 1962 Vatican document that directs church leaders how to handle sex abuse cases. It indicates the secrecy surrounding these cases started at the top. We found the secrecy often stays too long with the victim.

Rodney Jenniges is forty seven years old. He told us, "You don't heal a hundred percent is the whole problem." He says he kept his abuse secret for twenty years. Now he's trying to rebuild his life by tearing down the past that haunts him. "I think back now and I just cringe." Jenniges says unspeakable things happened inside the rectory at St. Albert the Great in Minneapolis.

He says he was only 12 when Brother Edmund Frost gave him alcohol before molesting him and maintains many people knew what was going on at the rectory. He told us, "I would just like an apology."

Brother Frost is now dead, but Jenniges says he would still like an apology from the church. He didn't get one when he filed a lawsuit in 1999. Instead the church fought him and the courts determined the statute of limitations had run out.

But it may not be too late for John Doe 56 who filed his lawsuit Wednesday. He was an altar boy at St. Albert's in the early 1970's and went to the parish school where Brother Frost taught sex education. John Doe 56 wants to remain anonymous. He says he hasn't even told his parents about the abuse. He says it started when Frost showed him a deck of pornographic playing cards and described each sex act on the cards. Afterward he performed oral sex on him. In all he says Brother Frost sodomized him 10 times. The now grown man, told us how that abuse has affected his life. He said, "It's a lonely, lonely feeling and very depressing." He also told us why he's filing the lawsuit. "I want them held accountable."

Prior Provincial Michael Mascari said in a statement that the Dominican Order acknowledges past abuse at St. Albert the Great, and said they believe John Doe's report of sexual abuse. But the order has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying among other things, the statute of limitations has run out. St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson says this case has is different. The man suing is in the military. Anderson explained, "Because of that the statute of limitations does not run. The clock does not begin ticking. I can say with confidence that this is an exceptional opportunity to expose this predator."

Anderson says he will use a confidential Vatican document in the case of John Doe 56. The document defines the clergy's worst crime as having sex with youths or with brute animals. It also allows the church to transfer accused clergy. The lawsuit says that's what the church did with Brother Frost. He was moved from St. Albert the Great to New Orleans where he was again allowed to work with young people.

The Vatican document also orders the cases be restrained by a perpetual silence. We talked to Richard Sipe who's a former Catholic priest and national expert on the church sex abuse scandal. He said this about the document, "It's a straight jacket, a religious straight jacket." Sipe is currently writing a book called "Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse." He calls the 1962 vatican document a blueprint for cover-up and says it's a document that demands even victims remain silent.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement which says the secrecy was only meant to protect the confidentiality of the confessional. Their statement goes on to say that the 1962 document does not forbid the civil reporting of civil crimes. It says people like Sipe are "taking the document entirely out of context and therefore distorting it completely."

But Sipe disagrees and says the Vatican document threatens to excommunicate anyone who violates the oath of secrecy. He says, "It really is how to seal all of this, as if it didn't happen and no one should know about it."


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