Twin Cities archdiocese charged with failure to protect children in sex abuse case

Author:
Updated:
Original:

The Ramsey County Attorney has filed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect children from an abusive priest.

At a press conference on Friday, County Attorney John Choi announced the archdiocese is charged with six gross misdemeanors relating to its handling of the case of Curtis Wehmeyer.

"It was not only Curtis Wehmeyer who harmed children, but it was the Archdiocese as well," Choi said in a news release.

"The Archdiocese’s failures have caused great suffering by the victims and their family and betrayed our entire community - from the many courageous clergy and laypeople whose legitimate concerns about Wehmeyer’s behavior were ignored or minimized to those Catholics and non-Catholics alike who were falsely led to believe that the Archdiocese had effective measures in place to protect children," he added.

Archdiocese 'turned a blind eye'

Curtis Wehmeyer is currently in prison after being convicted of abusing children while he was pastor at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in St. Paul, and in March was permanently removed from the priesthood by Pope Francis.

He was sentenced to five years in Feb. 2013 for possession of child pornography and sexually abusing two brothers, then aged 12 and 14, on numerous occasions.

Choi referred to the archdiocese's program to monitor problem priests as "a sham" during the conference, with the Star Tribune reporting he cited an example where senior officials were told Wehmeyer had slept in a bed on a camping trip with one of his victims in 2010.

Choi said these reports were "ignored, minimized or not shared," according to the newspaper.

"Time and time again, they turned a blind eye," to what was happening, Choi said, according to KARE 11.

The Archdiocese responds

Later Friday officials with the archdiocese said they are committed to protecting children and will work with police and prosecutors in their ongoing investigation, according to The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper.

Tim O'Malley, the archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment, said "We all share the goal of protecting children," The Catholic Spirit reports.

Catholic News Agency quotes Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who is auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese:

“We deeply regret the abuse that was suffered by the victims of Curtis Wehmeyer and are grieved for all victims of sexual abuse. We all share the same goal: to provide safe environments for all children in our churches and in our communities."

Details of the charges

The six criminal charges filed against the Archdiocese include three separate counts of Contributing to the Need for Protection or Services and three more of Contributing to Status as a Juvenile Petty Offender or Delinquency.

A civil charge has also been filed, saying the Archdiocese contributed to the need for protection or services of children, with the charge "intended to seek legal remedies to prevent the Archdiocese from allowing this behavior to ever happen again."

The charges result from a 20-month long investigation between the attorney's office and St. Paul police, which saw 50 witnesses interviewed and more than 170,000 pages of documents obtained from various sources.

The station adds no charges have been levied against individual officials at this point, with insufficient evidence having been collected at this stage, but Choi said the investigation would continue.

The sex abuse scandal has rocked the Catholic archdiocese since it emerged in 2013, and has since prompted it to file for bankruptcy as it prepares to settle claims brought forward by victims.

Next Up

Andrelton Simmons / Minnesota Twins

Twins sign Andrelton Simmons to one-year deal

The former Angels shortstop is a four-time Gold Glove winner.

covid, vaccine

Minnesotans eligible for COVID shots only need to pre-register once for vaccine lottery

This is good news for people worried that they'd need to sign up every week.

police lights

2 people charged in separate Minneapolis homicides that happened hours apart

A woman is accused of stabbing a man in the chest over $60, while a man is accused of accidentally shooting a victim on the man's birthday.

House for sale

Despite pandemic, Twin Cities housing market set records in 2020

Sales were up 7.7% in 2020 compared to the year before.

Target store inside

Target unveils 'limited-edition' home, lifestyle collection with Levi Strauss

The new collection will be available in some stores and everyone online Feb. 28.

Tim Walz

Walz's $52.4 billion budget increases school spending, raises taxes on wealthy

He says the budget will help level the playing field and ensure all Minnesotans have a fair shot at economic recovery,

Screen Shot 2021-01-26 at 12.55.00 PM

Pictures from Minnesota GOP's Deadwood retreat show no masks, no distancing

The pictures were shared in Chair Jennifer Carnahan's latest email newsletter.

Alexus Norberg

Search for girl, 14, missing from St. Cloud

The teen left her home without her parents' permission.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, January 26

The health departments provided new data daily at 11 a.m.

Related