By AMY FORLITI, Associated Press
Updated 4:37 pm, Thursday, December 5, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Amid mounting public pressure and under order from a court, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Thursday published a list of 34 priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.
The list includes the names of eight men who had not been publicly named previously as alleged abusers.
It places the men in two categories: 30 are believed to have molested children, while the remaining four have claims against them that could not be substantiated. For example, one of those four cases involved a sexual relationship with an adult.
“The disclosures made today are not intended to be final,” Archbishop John Nienstedtwrote in his Thursday column in The Catholic Spirit newspaper. “We are currently engaged in a comprehensive review of clergy files, and the list will be updated as additional announcements are made.”
A judge gave the archdiocese until Jan. 6 to disclose information about additional priests accused of molesting kids. Going forward, Nienstedt said, any substantiated claims will be disclosed on the archdiocese website.
Nienstedt has been under fire over allegations that he and other church leaders mishandled cases of clergy sexual misconduct. He said he hoped the disclosure would help victims heal and rebuild trust.
Advocates and victims’ attorneys said the list is incomplete, and Nienstedt’s hand was forced.
“I think this is only a portion of the people that abuse kids in this archdiocese that the archbishop knows about,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney for victims.
In 2004, the archdiocese compiled a list of 33 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. The list was part of a nationwide study to determine the scope of clergy sex abuse. Across the country, roughly two dozen archdioceses and dioceses already made such lists public.
The names published Thursday include all 33 from that list, as well as another priest recently convicted of child sex crimes.
The information includes their ages, and, when known, their years of ordination, the parishes where they served, the date they were removed from ministry, their statuses, and the cities where they live.
The archdiocese has said most of the allegations stem from the mid-1950s to the 1980s, though details aren’t published — so it’s unclear what the allegations are, when they were reported, or how long the priests remained in ministry after they came to light.
“Not knowing how many allegations there are, you can’t really judge the assignment record,” said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org. “Mapping the abuse history onto the career history is super important, and not doing that … creates uncertainty.”
Of the 30 men who have had substantiated claims against them, 16 are permanently removed from ministry, one is listed as leaving the ministry, 11 are dead, and two have been defrocked.
Sixteen men, including some who are now dead, were permanently removed from ministry in 2002 or 2003, when the church sex abuse scandal was at its height.
Three worked in pastoral roles in 11 or more parishes — including one who was in ministry in 16 churches. The archdiocese has said 92 parishes have had at least one accused priest assigned to them at some point — nearly half of the 188 parishes that serve about 825,000 Catholics.
Attorneys for victims of abuse had fought for years to publish the list, arguing it’s in the interest of public safety, and would give victims courage to come forward.
Finnegan said a handful of new victims came forward Thursday and he expects more will follow. About two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the archdiocese since Minnesota loosened its statute of limitations for filing civil claims in child sex abuse cases.
It’s unlikely any of the priests would face criminal charges for older cases, but statute of limitations rules in Minnesota are complex, and there could be exceptions.
Finnegan said one of his next steps will be to make sure priest files — which show the number of victims and when the archdiocese knew about the allegations — are made public so those who reassigned known abusers are held accountable.
“It’s that information that they are keeping secret that protects the higher ups and the archbishop from being exposed,” he said.