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Archdiocese admits it failed to protect kids from sex abuse

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The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has admitted it failed to protect three children from sexual abuse by a former priest.

As a result, criminal charges against the archdiocese have been dropped, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

“We have insisted upon this direct admission of wrongdoing from the beginning," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement. "Now that it has been made and we have secured additional legal safeguards to prevent such failures from ever happening again, we have achieved all our goals in bringing forth this legal action.”

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office filed civil and criminal charges against the archdiocese last year, alleging the archdiocese ignored repeated misconduct by Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest, who was convicted of molesting two boys in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.

The two sides reached a settlement on the civil charges back in December that required the church to implement new policies to protect children. And at the hearing Wednesday, the attorney's office announced details of an amendment to that settlement, which includes the archdiocese's admission of wrongdoing.

Because this case is now considered closed, documents related to were released – you can see the documents here.

Responding to those documents, the Archdiocese in an email release said the attorney's office and police reviewed the documents for three years, and that the decision to dismiss the charges (after the Archdiocese admitted fault) "is unconditional and speaks for itself."

Archdiocese 'failed' to keep kids safe

"The Archdiocese failed to keep the safety and wellbeing of these three children ahead of protecting the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the Archdiocese. The actions and omissions of the Archdiocese failed to prevent the abuse that resulted in the need for protection and services for these three children."

The amendment also includes new conditions and requirements to make sure the archdiocese's efforts to protect kids continues. They include:

  • Extending audit and oversight by a year, until February 2020.
  • Patty Wetterling, Jacob Wetterling's mother and a national child safety advocate, will have a seat on the Ministerial Review Board.
  • Archbishop Bernard Hebda will directly participate in three restorative justice sessions.
  • The Director of Safe Environment will have a strengthened role so it will "endure long beyond the completion of the settlement agreement."
  • The three victims and their families will have ongoing counseling resources made available to them if necessary.

"Nothing we can do will ever be able to take away the pain inflicted on so many people. But we stand here today committed to a way forward," Janell Rasmussen, deputy director of the archdiocese's Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, said in a statement Wednesday. (Archbishop Hebda also released a statement – read it here.)

If the archdiocese doesn't follow the agreements in the settlement, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office says it will take further legal action in order to hold it accountable. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20 to go over the archdiocese's compliance with the agreement, the release says.

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