Victim: Diocese disclosure just a step
MARSHALL – The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Thursday released the names of 30 ordained ministers of the Catholic Church who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor and four whom the diocese said had accusations not substantiated against them.
The disclosure came in response to a court order after a case was filed by the St. Paul legal firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates.
Childhood sexual abuse survivor Bob Schwiderski said it’s a good start but still not enough.
“It’s been good for Minnesota,” Schwiderski said, “the fact that society has seen so much abut childhood abuse, it can do nothing but help us move forward.”
Schwiderski claimed he and his older brother were abused as children by Father William J. Marks while living in Hector. After Schwiderski’s parents reported the abuse to the church trustees in 1962, Marks was transferred to St. Clotilde in Green Valley and to St. Dionysius in Tyler.
Schwiderski is now Minnesota Director of Support Network for those Abused by Priests.
“Today’s Archdiocese list is not enough,” he said. “Almost half the parishes in the Archdiocese have had assigned credibly accused child molesting priests. Sadly, this is a report from only one-sixth of the Catholic dioceses in Minnesota.”
In 2002, in response to the scandal of child abuse by clergy that emerged in Boston, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops commissioned a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, analyzing allegations of sexual abuse in Catholic dioceses in United States from 1950 to 2002.
The John Jay report, published in 2004, concluded a total of 107 priests in six dioceses had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors in Minnesota. Aside from the 33 listed in the diocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis the report listed another 74 in the dioceses of Crookston, St. Cloud, New Ulm, Winona and Duluth.
Schwiderski, however, claimed knowledge of at least 190 clergy guilty of abuse in the state.
According to a statement on the archdiocese website by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, “It is the practice of the archdiocese to report promptly to law enforcement all allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Any clergy member facing a credible claim of sexual abuse of minors will be removed from ministry pending an investigation of the claim.”
In announcing the new disclosure practices, Nienstedt said the information given on the diocese website would include:
The cleric’s year of birth and year of ordination;
Whether the cleric is alive or deceased;
If deceased, the year of the cleric’s death;
The cleric’s prior assignments in the archdiocese;
The date of the cleric’s removal from ministry; and
- For clerics who are alive, their present status with the Church (permanently removed from ministry, laicized, deceased, etc.) and the city and state in which they presently reside.
According to the website, all priests on the list are either deceased or removed from the ministry.
“I think the St. Paul disclosure does two things,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates. “It’s a huge victory for the courageous survivors who’ve fought for this for years. And second it puts both pressure and gives permission for every bishop to voluntarily release the names of priests who have been credibly accused. Hopefully each one of those bishops finds the courage of their convictions to release the names so that kids in our communities can be safer. Even those priests not administering now are still living in our communities.”
According to Finnegan, there will be a hearing on Jan. 6 on a case to compel the diocese of New Ulm to disclose the names of 12 priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Finnegan said he anticipates further possibly filings in other diocese.