Report: Archdiocese 'stealth' accounts paid out $11 million

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A new Minnesota Public Radio News investigation has revealed a "stealth financial system" in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that allowed for payments for numerous infractions – including the removal of priests who committed child sex abuse – without attracting attention.

MPR says it analyzed thousands of private internal archdiocese documents, and found internal financial reports that showed the archdiocese used the stealth accounts to pay out nearly $11 million from 2002 to 2011 – which equated to about 3 percent of the archdiocese's overall revenues during that time period.

The costs were tied to suspected priest misconduct under former Archbishop Harry Flynn and his successor, Archbishop John Nienstedt, MPR reports.

According to MPR, the secret account also provided financial support for children fathered by priests and other legal settlements. The secrecy, however, also left the archdiocese vulnerable to embezzlement.

MPR says separate accounts were set up to denote the type of behavior involved: Account 1-515 paid costs to priests connected with child sex abuse, while 1-516 paid costs relating the abuse of adults.

MPR's story was part of an ongoing in-depth probe of priest abuse in Minnesota.

The MPR report comes as the archdiocese prepares to release its second list of priests accused of abusing minors next month.

The first list of “credibly accused” priests, which was compiled in 2004, was released in December. It publicly disclosed the names of more than 30 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

The second list, due on Feb. 5, will contain the names of priests accused since 2004.

Lawyers for the archdiocese earlier this month argued that releasing a second list of all the accused priests — regardless of whether the allegations are considered “credible” by the church — could harm the reputation of innocent priests.

KSTP says priests around the state are now considering legal maneuvers to keep their names off the list.

One attorney, Marshall Tanick, told the station he's been contacted by two clergy members who want to remain anonymous.

Tanick said priests on the list may try to anonymously petition the court to be excluded from the list.

A spokesperson with the archdiocese told the station it was not aware of priests talking with Tannick.

The station says critics are concerned the maneuver may prevent future church disclosures. But lawyer Patrick Wall said the move will also protect innocent priests.

"It's pretty clear that the bishops are willing to throw whatever priest under the bus that they need to in order to protect themselves," Wall, a former priest, told KSTP.

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