Statement Regarding Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis announces today the details regarding the formation of a new Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force (“Task Force”) effective today, October 6, 2013.

Over the past two weeks, serious allegations have been made concerning certain priests in this Archdiocese and the handling of cases by archdiocesan officials.

“These allegations must be addressed urgently, transparently and with truly independent review,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “Addressing these serious allegations is the top priority for the Archdiocese.”

As a result, the Archbishop has appointed a new Vicar for Ministerial Standards, Fr. Reginald Whitt, a Dominican priest from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, to:

•    assume full responsibility for all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct, and
•    appoint an independent lay task force to review any and all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct and to make specific recommendations regarding actions to be taken and policies and procedures to be implemented.

The Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force  will operate independently of both the Vicar for Ministerial Standards and the Archbishop. The Task Force will have full authority and all the resources needed to complete its work. The findings and recommendations of the Task Force will be released publicly when the final report is complete and the Vicar for Ministerial Standards will implement the recommendations, which the Archbishop has pledged to accept.

Members for the Task Force are being considered by Fr. Whitt and formal appointments are expected to be final by Wednesday.  Fr. Whitt will announce the names of the members and the chairperson, and Fr. Whitt will be available to meet with the media on Wednesday afternoon, October 9 (details to be announced).  The membership of the Task Force is not being reviewed by the Archbishop, nor is he making any decisions about the membership.

The Task Force is expected to convene this week. The Vicar will not attend meetings of the Task Force, unless invited by the chairperson.

“There can be no room for misconduct among our clergy and our standard must be zero tolerance for abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “We hold a sacred trust. Our very vocation requires the highest standard of conduct so that all may be drawn to the person of Jesus Christ through our witness.”

We seek these unprecedented measures so that we may have a renewed commitment to create and maintain safe environments where the Gospel of Jesus Christ can flourish.

During this very difficult time, please hold each other, our community and this local Church in prayer. Please pray for all victims of sexual misconduct in Church ministry and in our society.