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Report: Two St. Thomas names on priest abuse list

By ,  |  Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:04 AM

A list from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis of 33 priests “credibly accused” of sexual abuse was incomplete and the actual number was more than double the archdiocese’s official count, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Wednesday.

MPR reported that its investigation found that the archdiocese dealt with allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse involving about 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.

Two priests with St. Thomas connections are on the MPR list. One is the Rev. Michael Keating, who is on voluntary leave from the university. The second is the Rev. Vincent A. Yzermans, who died in 1995 and worked in the College of St. Thomas’ public affairs office in 1976.

MPR 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.

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 to 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 last year to review its clergy personnel files. On Monday, the archdiocese disclosed nine more names of accused priests.

This item was posted in Church Investigations, More News, News and has 2 comments so far.

2 Comments

  1. Ryan O’Shaughnessy ’12
    Feb. 19, 2014 6:55 PM

    For my knowledge, can anyone clarify for me what the term “credibly accused” means?

  2. Arthur Roraff
    Feb. 21, 2014 1:55 PM

    This is a good question. One that I was asking for a long time until I read the recent press release from the Archdiocese. http://www.archspm.org/news-events/news-detail.php?intResourceID=11955 They make a distinction between those accusations that are  “credible” and “substantiated.”  ”A credible claim is one that is not manifestly false or frivolous. In other words, it is not blatantly false. Separate from our internal evaluation process, any claim whether credible or not, is immediately reported to police. If the archdiocese determines that a credible claim exists, the archdiocese opens an investigation to determine whether a claim is substantiated. A substantiated claim is one for which sufficient evidence exists to establish reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged abuse occurred.” So, it sounds like ALL accusations are brought forward to the police and the police make their own decision on whether to follow through or not. Then if the archdiocese finds that there is sufficient reason to believe that something might have occurred then they proceed with their own investigation. This is just what I gleaned from from the press release. I highly suggest reading the press release. It provides an important contrast to the way MPR is reporting this story. 

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