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Diocese of Crookston releases list of 6 credibly accused priests

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The Diocese of Crookston has become the latest in Minnesota to publicly release a list of names of priests who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

The Grand Forks Herald reported that the list of the priests followed a request from the newspaper.

The newspaper said that five of the priests on the list are dead and that the abuse they are accused of happened decades ago. The sixth, the Rev. Joseph Jeyapaul, remains awaiting extradition from his home country of India. He faces charges from Roseau County, where he is accused in the sexual assault of two teenage girls a decade ago. He worked in the diocese as a visiting priest for about three years. Details of the case are on the website of the Diocese of Crookston.

MPR News notes that the half dozen names on the list are already publicly known, through lawsuits and media reports.

The release represents a shift for the Crookston diocese. In October, an attorney for the diocese argued against litigation by St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who was seeking a list, that there was no harm in keeping it private.

In written comments, Monsignor David Baumgartner, vicar general of the Crookston diocese, said, “We strongly encourage anyone who has been the victim of abuse or who knows of such circumstances to report that information to their local law enforcement officials and to the diocese’s victim’s assistance coordinator so that any allegation can be investigated and appropriate action can be taken.”

Baumgartner told the Grand Forks newspaper that the diocese hired Jon Austin, a well-regarded public relations expert in the Twin Cities, for guidance in addressing the issue.

“We decided to work with Jon because he has a great deal of experience in helping organizations communicate clearly on issues of sensitivity and because we don’t have a full-time communications staff,” Baumgartner said.

The decision to release the Crookston list leaves New Ulm as the only diocese in Minnesota that hasn't released a list of accused priests. The Diocese of New Ulm argues that two of the allegations are false and should not be made public.

The disclosure comes after a similar list was released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in December following a ruling in Ramsey County District Court. That was followed by the release of lists in the Diocese of St. Cloud, the Diocese of Winona, and St. John's Abbey in Collegeville.

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