NEW ULM — An attorney leading a statewide effort to have lists of priests credibly accused of molesting children released was asking why the Diocese of New Ulm is fighting to keep its list secret after a court hearing Monday.
The diocese is the only one in the state that hasn't released a list that was provided to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City in 2003 or 2004. The lists were created for a study, started by Catholic bishops, to determine the scope of child sexual abuse by priests in the United States.
Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney, and his law firm have been filing lawsuits in several Minnesota district courts, including in Brown County, on behalf of victims claiming they were sexually abused by priests. Many of those lawsuits included requests to have the lists released to the public.
Similar lists created by dioceses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, St. Cloud, Winona, Duluth and Crookston were released by court order or voluntarily after the motions were filed, Anderson said. During Monday's hearing, Thomas Wieser, an attorney for the Diocese of New Ulm, argued to keep the New Ulm list secret.
Wieser did disclose during the hearing that the list of 12 priests credibly accused of molesting children contains the names of six priests who are still alive. The average age of those priests is 70, he said.
He argued that Anderson's nuisance complaints that led to the release of other lists doesn't fit the New Ulm case because there has been no report of sexual abuse by any priest in the New Ulm Diocese that took place after 2004. So the six living priests on the list would have their reputations damaged for no reason, Wieser said.
The New Ulm cases addressed Monday by Brown County District Court Judge Robert Docherty were filed against the diocese alleging officials there allowed David Roney to work as a priest after receiving reports he had molested children. The cases involve two women and a third victim who said they were sexually assaulted by Roney while they were children attending St. Mary's Catholic Church in Willmar during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Roney was 82 when he died in 2003, so he would have been in his late 40s or early 50s at the time.