Report: Top Archdiocese officials debated legality of child porn

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Top leaders at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis debated whether material found inside the chancery building of the diocese met the legal definition of child pornography, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

The yearlong debate followed a discovery by then-canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger in the basement archives of the building, MPR says. The evidence – from a 2004 internal investigation of a then-pastor at St. Jude of the Lake church in Mahtomedi – reportedly consisted of sexually explicit images found on the computer of the pastor, some of them appearing to depict children.

Haselberger turned over documents about the debates to police officials earlier this year, which were in turn obtained by MPR News.

The documents also provide a closer look at decisions by Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Archbishop Harry Flynn to keep the matter quiet and leave the pastor to continue in the ministry, MPR says.

Included in the documents was a 2012 letter Nienstedt drafted – but never sent – to the Vatican, saying the images in the pastor's "personnel file could expose the Archdiocese, as well as myself, to criminal prosecution."

Last week, St. Paul police said there would not be any child porn charges filed against the priest -- who also served in Hugo -- because the Archdiocese withheld evidence, the Pioneer Press reports.

The Star Tribune reports that Haselberger resigned in April over allegations that her concerns about priest sexual misconduct were ignored by the Archdiocese.

The latest MPR report comes about two weeks after a another investigation by the outlet, which claimed the Archdiocese allowed priest Curtis Wehmeyer to continue practicing, despite knowing of his sexual compulsions.

Wehmeyer was later convicted of sexually abusing two teenage boys.

The fallout over sexual misconduct in the ministry led to the resignation of Nienstedt's top deputy, the Rev. Peter Laird, last week.

On Thursday, the Archdiocese a priest who is also a University of St. Thomas law professor to assemble a task force on sexual misconduct by clergy

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