Today’s civil court filing seeking the release of the names of clergy against whom allegations have been made is not a new request. A Ramsey County District Court judge has considered and denied similar requests on two previous occasions. This request refers to information the Archdiocese was asked to provide 10 years ago as part of a national study of allegations of clergy sexual abuse between the years 1950 and 2002. In many instances, most dating back decades, the alleged victim was not available or the alleged perpetrator was no longer alive or no longer in ministry so there was no way to determine the substance of such allegations. The Archdiocese reported to the study authors that during that 52 year period, allegations which were not implausible had been made against 26 archdiocesan priests and seven religious order or priests from other dioceses, among the thousands of priests who served in the Archdiocese during that half century time period.
None of the identified clergy have been in Church ministry for at least ten years and several are deceased. Most have already been publically named in media or other public reports.
The Archdiocese has repeatedly expressed concern for anyone alleging abuse. We again express our concern for the man who alleges he was abused in 1966 and who has met several times with an archdiocesan official who responds to those alleging abuse. The man he alleges abused him has been out of ministry since 1991, is now 92 years old and resides in a nursing home.
Any sexual abuse is absolutely unacceptable, and we make no excuses for perpetrators and regret all harm caused. We believe that comprehensive and groundbreaking steps the Archdiocese has taken over the past twenty years have protected children in parishes, schools and other Church ministry settings.
In 1987, then archdiocesan Auxiliary Bishop Robert Carlson expressed deep regret that the archdiocese had made mistakes in handling and responding to matters involving sexual abuse of minors by some members of its clergy. Since that time, first under the leadership of Archbishop John Roach, and continuing under the leadership of Archbishop Harry Flynn and now Archbishop John Nienstedt, the Archdiocese has developed, identified and implemented policies and procedures to prevent the sexual abuse of minors.
For more than two decades, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has been a leader in policies to protect children and youth. We have had a zero tolerance approach to cases of clergy sexual abuse of a minor since the 1990s: we report immediately and cooperate fully with civil authorities and the accused is removed from all ministry permanently if sexual abuse accusations are substantiated.
All clergy and parish and school employees have been required to undergo criminal background checks for 20 years. Criminal background checks have been required for volunteers in ministry with minors for nearly 10 years. More than 105,000 criminal background checks have been run on clergy, employees and volunteers in the Archdiocese in the last decade alone.
The Archdiocese has provided comprehensive and age-appropriate safe environment training to 100,000 young people in Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs as well as more than 68,000 clergy, parish and school employees, and volunteers during the past decade. Safe environment training helps prevent abuse by raising awareness about this pervasive societal problem, providing information about the warning signs of potential abusers as well as signs of abuse and empowering people to report when they suspect abuse.
The Archdiocese has had a longstanding policy of providing counseling and other support to victims of sexual abuse. For twenty years, the Archdiocese has repeatedly encouraged victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy to obtain counseling and has assisted victims by providing counseling through independent counselors at no cost.
In conclusion, we take allegations of sex abuse seriously and regret the harm to victims, their families and loved ones and to communities caused by clergy sexual abuse. For more than two decades, we have demonstrated our commitment to help victims heal, and to fully cooperate with civil authorities to protect young people and prevent sexual abuse. As we have stated unequivocally in the past, anyone having knowledge of misconduct within a Catholic parish or school should immediately call the proper civil authorities, and is encouraged to notify the archdiocesan Director of Advocacy at (651) 291-4497. The sexual abuse of minors is a tragic societal problem; let’s work together to fight it.