ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A longstanding list from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis of 33 priests "credibly accused" of sexual abuse was incomplete, with the actual number of accused or suspected priests more than twice the official count, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Wednesday.
MPR reported (http://bit.ly/1nNSx07 ) that its investigation found that the archdiocese dealt with allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse involving at least 70 clergy members since 1950. The station posted a searchable database on them. The priests served in nearly every parish of the archdiocese, according to MPR, which based its own list on a review of other lists compiled by church officials, court records, private settlements, police reports and hundreds of internal church documents.
The station said it also found more than a dozen other priests referred to as possible child abusers in private lists and memos but could find no information about their alleged crimes. MPR said it was not naming them.
But the archdiocese said the MPR report "includes numerous inaccuracies, misrepresentations and omissions." At least 16 of the clergy members identified by MPR were the subject of "false, meritless or unsubstantiated accusations against them," the archdiocese said in a statement released late Wednesday.
The archdiocese also said at least two people on MPR's list had never served in the archdiocese. The archdiocese stressed the care it has repeatedly taken to distinguish between priests who are credibly accused and those who are simply accused.
"The archdiocese is dedicated to accurate and responsible reporting of clergy against whom substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor have been made," the statement said.
The list of 33 was just one of many lists of accused priests stored on computers and in filing cabinets at the chancery in St. Paul. Church officials later stopped writing lists for fear they would have to be disclosed in lawsuits, said Jennifer Haselberger, a former canon lawyer for the archdiocese who resigned last April in protest of its handling of clergy sexual misconduct. She then became a whistleblower.
It's not clear why some men weren't named on the official list of 33, which was compiled by the Rev. Kevin McDonough, former vicar general of the archdiocese, at the height of the national clergy abuse scandal 11 years ago, MPR reported. The archdiocese acknowledged the existence of the list in 2003 but declined to release the names until a judge ordered the archdiocese to do so in December. Documents suggest that McDonough in several cases simply lost track of all the allegations, the report said.
Archbishop John Nienstedt, through a spokesman, declined MPR's interview request, and McDonough did not respond to its interview request. A spokesman for the archdiocese wouldn't explain how abuse claims were vetted for credibility.
Some of the accused on MPR's list remain in ministry. Others are long dead. Several have been included on other lists of "credibly accused" priests from other dioceses or religious orders but their assignments in the archdiocese were kept private.
MPR's Investigation found that at least 21 priests named as suspected child abusers by other dioceses and religious orders had served in the Twin Cities archdiocese. At least four priests have been the subject of lawsuits for alleged child sexual abuse but weren't on the archdiocese's public list. At least 10 of the clerics were criminally investigated, the report said.
MPR said it found only four priests who served or worked in the Twin Cities who were criminally convicted of child sexual abuse. In every other case, the report said, the archdiocese relied on changing, often vague criteria to determine whether allegations were credible, and that it set standards that were difficult for victims to meet.
The archdiocese hired a private consulting firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, last year to review its clergy personnel files. On Monday, the archdiocese disclosed nine more names of accused priests.
The archdiocese's statement said the list of 33 credibly accused priests was disclosed as part of an individual court case, while other disclosures are different.
"The latter is our promise to victims and the community at large to do all that we can to provide safe environments for children," the archdiocese said. "We look forward to fulfilling our promises to victim and the community as completely and as soon as possible."
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org