Judge orders names of accused priests released by Dec. 17

By ,  |  Monday, December 2, 2013 7:51 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two Roman Catholic dioceses in Minnesota have about two weeks to disclose the names of 46 priests deemed to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, a judge ruled Monday, or they must file detailed explanations showing why they are keeping the names private.

Ramsey County District Court Judge John Van de North, Jr. gave a deadline of Dec. 17 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to disclose its list of 33 credibly accused priests and the Diocese of Winona to disclose its list of 13 priests.

The lists were compiled in 2004 as part of a nationwide study to determine the scope of clergy sex abuse. Across the country, roughly two dozen archdioceses and dioceses have already made such lists public.

Van de North said his ruling will put this “lightning rod” issue into perspective. It also allows both dioceses to make exceptions, but requires more detail than the dioceses have provided in the past.

“We’re going to get justice for everybody,” Van de North said.

Van de North said the two dioceses must release the priests’ names; birth year and age; year of ordination; whether they’re alive or dead and the year of death; the parishes they served; their current status; and the city and state where they live.

They have until Jan. 6 to file the same information for priests accused of sexual abuse of minors since these lists were compiled.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it plans to release the names of priests on Thursday on a new page of the archdiocese’s website and in its newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. The archdiocese noted that most of the men whose names will be released have been previously identified in media reports.

“These disclosures are not intended to be final. A comprehensive review of clergy files is ongoing presently and the list will be updated regularly as additional announcements are made in the future,” the archdiocese said in a statement Monday.

Attorneys for victims of clergy sexual abuse sought for years to make the lists public, arguing it’s in the interest of public safety. Attorney Jeff Anderson said there is a “fierce urgency” in knowing who abusers are, where they worked and where they live.

“Today marks the beginning of a safer time in this community,” Anderson said after the ruling.

Church leaders have previously balked at releasing the lists, saying it could harm reputations of innocent priests. They argued the term “credibly accused,” coined by the 2004 study, has a low threshold and meant that any report of abuse that was “not implausible” was included.

Before Van de North issued his order, an attorney for the archdiocese said Archbishop John Nienstedt was prepared to name 30 priests accused of sexually abusing minors. The names include 29 priests on the 2004 list, plus one against whom a substantiated claim was leveled later.

“The archbishop has determined he wants the healing to begin,” archdiocese attorney Tom Wieser said.

Of the remaining four on the 2004 list, Wieser said one was a member of a religious order and there’s no information showing he served in the archdiocese. The other three are priests for whom the archdiocese says the allegations can’t be substantiated.

Former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson was reviewing those files to see if they should be disclosed, Wieser said. He also noted that nine priests on the list are dead, and all had been removed from ministry by 2005 at the latest.

It’s not immediately clear how many new names will be disclosed. At least 20 names on the archdiocese’s list have already been public. It’s believed one priest’s name overlaps both lists.

Van de North said that while Johnson is well-respected, the fact that the archdiocese hired him raises transparency issues, and reviews must be done by a neutral party. He also noted that since 2004, the archdiocese has determined on its own whether abuse claims were “substantiated.”

“I think the archdiocese and the archbishop are making strides, and it certainly seems to be moving in the right direction,” Van de North said. “They need a little push from the court.”

Thomas Braun, attorney for the Winona diocese, objected to disclosing the 13 names, citing the low threshold used in compiling the list.

Other Minnesota dioceses have similar lists of accused priests. Anderson’s firm is also seeking disclosure of those names.

This item was posted in Church Investigations, More News, News and has 4 comments so far.


  1. David Clohessy
    Dec. 2, 2013 9:10 AM

    If you were hurt by a priest, suffering in shame, isolation and self-blame won’t fix it. Only by stepping forward, speaking up and getting help can you both recover personally and help others. Now’s the time to do it. . . . 

    Let’s hope that every person who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups will find the courage and strength to speak up, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect kids and start healing. 

    David Clohessy, Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143), 314 566 9790 cell (

  2. Dick Houck
    Dec. 2, 2013 1:44 PM

    Let’s be sure of the terms that are being used here. Mr. Clohessy uses two different terms, “credibly accused” and “accused”. Neither term is the same as convicted. Priests are no different from any other citizen, in that one is presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law by a jury of piers. Some priests have been wrongfully accused of sexual abuse and their names cannot be released until they have been tried in a court of law. However, it seems that some attorneys and some in SNAP want all names of those “accused” to be released whether they are guilty or not.

  3. Thomas Allen
    Dec. 6, 2013 2:04 AM

    Mr Houck- the point of releasing actual names is for public awareness and protection of vulnerable young people, not character assassination or legal technicalities. Those things are irrelevant to families who need to be advised if there is even a remote possibility of their children being coerced into sexual evil by an official Church figure. I understand the custom may once have been to sweep things under the rug, but the saturation of the Catholic Church with verifiable sexual predators has necessitated a shift to erring on the side of protecting potential rape victims rather than aggressors. All this action has been undertaken by the public in part due to the uncooperative heel-digging of the Church itself. Because the institution has proven it cannot police itself, the responsibility falls to civil authorities to protect and serve society’s most powerless citizens, children.

  4. Dick Houck
    Dec. 9, 2013 10:02 AM

    Mr. Allen: If you were aware of the complete history of this issue from the late ’50s to the ’80s you would know that there were some priests who were falsely accused and had their reputations ruined because of it. I will not say that there were not some mistakes made in dealing with abuser priests. However, at the beginning of the problem it was understood from knowledgeable psychologists that the tendency to abuse could be cured with proper treatment, which led to some priests being reassigned after that treatment. However, it was later found that treatment could did not cure, and those reassigned committed further abuse. Those reassignments were unfortunate, but were done honestly and without knowledge of further problems. I was only saying that accusations are not the same as convictions and in our legal system no one is guilty until tried and proven guilty in a court of law. At least one of those named on the list, it was noted that no credible evidence of abuse was found. I do not believe his name should not have been on the list. If someone accused you of such abuse and you were not guilty, your name should not appear in the media until you could prove yourself not guilty. If it did, you would never be able to regain your reputation.

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