Catholic church to investigate claims Crookston bishop interfered in sex abuse probes

The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced the investigation.
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The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis has said he will investigate claims that the Bishop of Crookston interfered in investigations of clerical sexual abuse leveled against his diocese.

In an announcement on Wednesday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda says police have been informed of the allegations against Most Rev. Michael Hoeoppner, who is alleged to have "carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston."

Hebda says the allegations were reported to him under processes recently enacted by legislation from Pope Francis to increase bishop accountability as it pertains to historic allegations of clerical sex abuse and subsequent coverup attempts.

The Catholic News Agency notes that Hoeppner becomes the first bishop in the U.S. to be investigated under the Pope's new protocol.

The Diocese of Crookston in July reached a $5 million settlement with 15 victims of clerical sexual misconduct, after lawsuits were brought against eight parishes within the diocese from April 2016 to May 2017.

At the time, Hoeppner apologized for the harm done by "those entrusted with your spiritual care," adding: "Although you can never be fully compensated for your suffering, we are thankful this litigation has now come to a good end and are hopeful this settlement offers you justice and will be helpful for healing."

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The investigation against him is just a preliminary one for now, with the findings to be forwarded to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope's representative in the U.S., with the Congregation for Bishops in Rome then deciding whether further investigation is warranted.

The investigation is being led by Tim O'Malley, the former head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who is now the Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Hoeppner, originally of Winona, Minnesota, was ordained and installed as the Bishop of Crookston in 2007.

Anyone with information about bishop misconduct is also urged to contact former Hennepin County Attorney Thomas Johnson, who has volunteed to be the "receiving authority" of such allegations. 

He can be reached at 612-632-3207 or thomas.johnson@gpmlaw.com.

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