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Archdiocese names priest to put together task force on sexual misconduct

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A priest who is also a University of St. Thomas law professor will put together a task force on sexual misconduct by clergy for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

MPR reports Archbishop John Nienstedt announced the appointment of the Rev. Reginald Whitt in a letter to priests and asked them to spread the news among their parishoners over the weekend. MPR says Whitt will assemble the task force of lay people and will not sit on the panel himself.

In his letter to priests, Nienstedt calls allegations of priest misconduct the top priority for the archdiocese. The leader of an advocacy group for survivors of sexual abuse by priests is unimpressed by the church's response and told MPR the new task force is a smokescreen.

Also this weekend, a former official with the archdiocese said she resigned last spring because church leaders declined to pursue her allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy. Jennifer Haselberger alleges that the archdiocese failed to share with police a priest's computer files featuring pornography that may have involved children.

That issue is separate from last month's MPR investigation suggesting the archdiocese knew about the compulsions of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer for years without removing him from the ministry. Wehmeyer is now serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing two boys.

The vicar general of the archdiocese, the Rev. Peter Laird, resigned last week, saying he hoped his departure would help restore trust among victims of abuse.

The archdiocese also issued a statement last week saying recent media coverage leaves a false impression about its commitment to address misconduct by priests.

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