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Former Minnesota top cop to head St. Paul archdiocese response to clergy sex abuse

By ,  |  Monday, August 25, 2014 8:04 PM

The former head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been named to oversee the Twin Cities archdiocese’s response to clergy sexual abuse.

Timothy O’Malley, 58, will become director of ministerial standards and safe environment for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the archdiocese said Monday.

He assumes the new position Sept. 15.

All sexual abuse allegations received by the archdiocese will go directly to O’Malley, Archbishop John Nienstedt said. They also will be reported immediately to police, he said.

O’Malley said his past jobs in law enforcement prepare him well for the position.

“I’ve been on the other side of (criminal) investigations,” he said he said in an interview Monday. “So I think I’ll be in a position to help the church respond better to law enforcement and work closely with law enforcement.”

He also has had experience working with crime victims, O’Malley said.

“That’s the highest priority of the church right now, and it should be — that we will provide whatever services that victims and survivors need.”

Crime victims have described their trauma as among the “darkest moments and darkest days of their lives,” O’Malley said. In such cases, he said, “We can’t undo what has happened, we cannot undo a sexual assault … but realizing where we’re at, facing the brutal facts in front of us, we can move forward with unwavering faith and commitment to make things better in the future.”

O’Malley said his first priority is to address needs of past victims. The second is to prevent sexual abuse from happening in the future. If it does, he said, “we are prepared to act very purposefully and aggressively to figure out what happened, to take care of whatever needs the victim has and hold people accountable.”

Nienstedt said O’Malley would have access to all information needed to do his job.

“I’ve promised him that, and he’ll have access to me, as well,” the archbishop said.

O’Malley worked from 1989 to 2010 at the BCA, spending his last four years there as superintendent. He became an administrative law judge in the state Office of Administrative Hearings in 2010.

Prior to the BCA, O’Malley worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Sacramento, Calif., from 1986 to 1989. He briefly practiced law at Sidley & Austin, a Chicago law firm, and worked as a patrol officer in Rochester, Minn., from 1980 to 1982.

A lay task force formed last October recommended in its April 2014 report that the archdiocese create the new position.

Such a position could ameliorate problems identified by the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, which was created in response to media reports of mishandling of clergy sexual abuse of minors.

The task force criticized the archdiocese for what it called lack of oversight of decision makers in the area of sexual abuse, processes that appeared secretive, lack of communication about sex abuse cases with church boards and decision makers, outdated record-keeping systems, and a “confusing and inadequate complaint-reporting mechanism.”

Nienstedt said the task force described a “silo effect” at the archdiocese, where information about clerical misbehavior came in, went into a file, and “other people that should have known about it didn’t know about it.”

The hiring of O’Malley will prevent that from happening, Nienstedt said.

The archdiocese said O’Malley will be responsible for ensuring archdiocesan compliance with state and federal law related to sexual abuse. He will also ensure compliance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which outlines how church officials respond to reports of abuse and deal with offending priests, among other matters.

O’Malley will oversee the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Promoter of Ministerial Standards program and the Office of Victim Advocacy and Assistance, the archdiocese said.

Nienstedt said O’Malley was chosen because of his law enforcement background, his reputation for compassion and his integrity.

“He just seemed to have all the qualities we needed,” the archbishop said. “I think it was an answer to prayer.”

Patty Wetterling, whose son was abducted in 1989, spoke highly of O’Malley.

“I can tell you he is greatly respected in both the law enforcement and victim services communities and has proven his commitment to building a world without sexual violence,” she said in the statement from the archdiocese.

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