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Archdiocese whistleblower details cover-up of clergy sex abuse

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The canon-lawyer-turned-whistleblower who came forward to denounce a clergy sexual abuse cover-up in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has detailed her claims under oath.

MPR News, which first reported on the revelations from Jennifer Haselberger, reports that Haselberger has disputed the sworn testimony of Archbishop John Nienstedt in her own sworn statement. She also contradicted sworn testimony by former top church deputies Peter Laird and Kevin McDonough, and archdiocese attorney Andrew Eisenzimmer. You can read Haselberger's affidavit here.

The Pioneer Press termed her 107-page affidavit "scorching" and "sweeping," saying that it described "...top officials' cover-ups, blaming of victims, willful ignorance, lies and a 'cavalier attitude toward the safety of other people's children.'"

Haselberger, who served as the archdiocese's chancellor for canonical affairs from 2008 to 2013, submitted the document in connection with the pending civil case of Doe 1. In the case, the plaintiff sued the archdiocese, the Diocese of Winona and former priest Thomas Adamson last year, claiming Adamson abused him in the 1970s.

Plaintiff's attorney Jeffrey Anderson filed Haselberger's affidavit Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court. The Pioneer Press story said her account "appears to provide key evidence to back up Anderson's claim that the archdiocese has continued to put children at risk of sexual assault."

KSTP reports Haselberger said that when she started in 2008, she discovered about 20 clergy in ministry who were guilty of sexual misconduct with adults and children. Haselberger said she discovered the archdiocese hadn't conducted background checks on most priests since the early 1990s. The archdiocese has for years pledged it was following the national bishops' policy for addressing abuse.

Explaining to the Pioneer Press her motivation for penning the affidavit, Haselberger said, "While it is for the court to determine whether the archdiocese has created a public nuisance, I think our community benefits from the knowledge of the archdiocese's practices."

The story is getting national media coverage. The Associated Press version is on the Huffington Post.

The revelations come as the archdiocese considers whether to file for bankruptcy as it faces an onslaught of abuse cases.

MPR News also reported that calls for Nienstedt to step down in the face of the revelations are growing.

"I would say if there's anything the laity can do, it's to speak with one voice to say as loudly as we can, 'The time has come to resign,'" major Catholic donor Jim Frey said.

Niensted has told his fellow priests that he's "not a quitter" and has no plans to resign.

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