The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 6, 2014

Priests want names removed from list

Both say molestation allegations are false

By Dan Nienaber
dnienaber@mankatofreepress.com

---- — NEW ULM — Two men on a list naming 12 Diocese of New Ulm priests who have faced credible allegations of molesting children have filed court motions saying their names should be removed because the allegations against them are false.

Both priests, one retired and one still working in the diocese, said their names are on the list because the diocese made a confidential cash payment to a person who accused them of sexually assaulting him or her in 1971. The allegations came to light in 1991 during a therapy session through a "recovered memory," the motions said.

The priests, who are only identified in their motions as Priest No. 1 and Former Priest No. 2, both said the allegations against them involve a "15 minute incident in a church basement."

The priest who is still working said he was made aware of the allegations when he was called in 1991 by William O'Connor, an attorney for the diocese who died in 2008. After meeting with O'Connor, the priest said he was given the impression the claim was without merit and nothing further would be done, according to his motion.

The retired priest said he learned about the allegations from Bishop Raymond Lucker, the leader of the diocese at the time. His motion said he told Lucker he knew the family of the person making the allegations but not the person, and Lucker said he believed him.

Both priests said the cash settlement was made without their knowledge or permission. They also said they have been told the diocese is considering releasing the list for "image control" and because similar lists have been released by other dioceses in the state. If their names are kept on the list, their reputations could be damaged for no reason, the motions said.

Their attorneys, William Orth and John Carey of Minneapolis, are asking Brown County District Court Judge Robert Docherty to privately review their investigative files and decide if their names should be released.

Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney who has worked to have similar lists released from other dioceses in Minnesota, said the New Ulm list should be released as soon as possible. He also said the names of the two priests should remain on the list. Molestation investigations completed by bishops, which were used to determine if a priest's name should be included on one of the lists, met high standards for credibility, he said.

"When a bishop puts them on the list, you've got to know they had the goods," he said.

Officials with the Diocese of New Ulm have not responded to requests for interviews about the molestation allegations against priests serving at churches in the diocese.