The Star Tribune reports that five priests who in 2002 were suspected of a history of sexual abuse were left off the long-secret list of priests "credibly accused" of abuse that was recently disclosed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Archbishop John Nienstedt told the Star Tribune on Thursday night that the list issued Dec. 5 “was not intended to be complete or final.”
The five were identified in an August 2002 archdiocesan internal memo as among "priests with known abuse histories." Case reviews for three of the five have not been completed, Nienstedt told the Star Tribune, and a review of a fourth, still active in the ministry in the east metro, found “no credible or substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor.”
The fifth was Harry Walsh, who MPR News reported on Thursday had been accused of sexual abuse by two teens decades ago. One complaint, brought by a man in 1996 who said he had been abused as an altar boy, was not further pursued by the man. In the other case, the church ultimately settled with a woman who said she had been abused by Walsh as a 15-year-old girl in the mid-1960s at a church in Detroit.
Walsh adamantly denied ever abusing anyone. "I'd have been shocked if I was on the list because there's nothing credible about it," he told MPR. MPR reported that church officials had flagged Walsh in 2002 as someone who should have been removed from priest ministry, but he was allowed to take a job at St. Henry's Catholic Church in Monticello, Minnesota, as director of music ministry. He retired from that job two years ago at age 77.
Walsh also teaches sex ed to teens in Wright County, MPR reported. That employment is under review, the Star Tribune reported.
Nienstedt himself has stepped aside as leader of the archdiocese while authorities investigate a claim by a teen that Nienstedt touched touched his buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony, an allegation Nienstedt strongly denies.
In a related story, MPR News reports that Catholics are weighing their giving options this holiday season as the church continues to be battered by the priest abuse crisis.