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Priest who abused teen wants to turn Archdiocese building into healing center

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A Twin Cities priest who has served time for child sex abuse is now leading an effort to establish a healing center for survivors of such abuse.

According to MPR News, the preferred site for the project is the building known as the chancery (above), which is now home to the headquarters of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Rev. Gilbert Gustafson is co-leader of The Gilead Project, whose website says it seeks " transform the environment of Church and society regarding sexual abuse and abuse of power." The site makes no mention of Gustafson's criminal past, nor that he is a priest.

The proposal has critics. David Clohessy, the national leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, tells MPR: "I think it's the height of arrogance for a child molesting cleric to say, 'I sexually assaulted kids but I can help sexually assaulted people heal from this.'"

Chancery building for sale

The Archdiocese, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, has put several buildings it owns up for sale to help raise money for creditors, including abuse victims.

The chancery building sits across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul. Gustafson's co-leader in The Gilead Project, Susan Pavlak, tells MPR there would be symbolic value in turning the building int0 a center for abuse survivors, adding, "It's critically important that we have a monument as permanent as the cathedral itself."

Rev. Gustafson's past

In 1983 Gustafson pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of a 15-year-old boy, whose parents said the abuse had continued for five years until 1982, the website says. He was sentenced to six months in jail.

MPR says a fellow priest testified in a 2004 deposition that he told archdiocesan officials that Gustafson had sexually abused eight or nine children.

Gustafson was included in a list the Archdiocese released in 2013 of 30 priests who'd been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children.

Although he was removed from ministry in 2002, Gustafson remains a priest. The Star Tribune reported last year that the Archdiocese has declared him disabled due to his pedophilia and continued to send disability payments to the 62-year-old.

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