Number of priests suspected of abuse triples


There are two significant new developments in the ongoing story of Minnesota priests suspected of abusing minors in parishes.

Priest list grows

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has identified at least 103 priests who have been accused of child sexual abuse – a number far higher than the 34 priests that the church in December said had been "credibly accused" of abuse, MPR News reports. The archdiocese unveiled that list of 34 names late last year, after a Ramsey County judge forced the release.

That bit of news surfaced Monday in a court document cited by lawyer Mike Finnegan, one of the attorneys who represents a man whose lawsuit claims that the Rev. Thomas Adamson abused him in the 1970s, MPR notes.

Finnegan and another victim's lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, have led efforts to sue the Catholic church in Minnesota on behalf of former parishioners who claim abuse, in some cases dating back decades.

Their work on several specific cases has prompted them to seek a much broader release of archdiocese documents related to priest abuse going back years, as the lawyers seek to prove a pattern of coverups. Through the cases, the archdiocese has handed the lawyers thousands of decades-old documents on priests who have been accused of abuse.

For months, the church has been under fire from critics about its handling of priest abuse scandals, which has been the subject of an MPR News investigation.

Until Monday, it has not previously been reported how many priests in the diocese have been accused of abuse.

Archdiocese lawyers have sought to keep its lists under wraps, noting that some priests may have been falsely accused.

A lawyer for the church on Monday declined to detail to MPR how the archdiocese decides what is a "credible" allegation, and he would not say whether every allegation is reported to police.

So, as the Star Tribune notes, a critical question pending before Ramsey County Judge Judge John Van de North is: What are the legal standards for releasing the names and files of priests accused of sexual misconduct?

New Ulm priest list

Meanwhile Monday, the names of eight Diocese of New Ulm priests suspected of abuse were released, KSTP reported.

Anderson's office unveiled the names. The names were obtained by Anderson from the diocese as part of a deposition with the Rev. Francis Garvey, a former top official with the Diocese of New Ulm in January.

That deposition was related to two cases of alleged priest abuse. The Diocese of New Ulm has objected to releasing the names.

All but one of the priests – Douglas L. Schleisman – are believed to be dead, the Pioneer Press reports. Six of the names have surfaced publicly before through other lawsuits: David A. Roney, Francis Markey, Vincent Fitzgerald, William J. Marks, Michael G. Skoblik and Schleisman.

Two of the names had not been publicly released before in connection with allegations of abuse: the Rev. John L. Gleason and the Rev. John M. Murphy, both deceased.

The Diocese of New Ulm released a statement Tuesday in response to the release of the priests' names The statement read in part:

The Diocese of New Ulm deeply regrets the long-lasting and devastating effects of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy. Such misconduct requires positive action on our part, and we have been strengthening our systems and procedures in order to address this grave issue.

The statement did not explain why the diocese had refused to release the priests' names in the past.

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