The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 7, 2013

Twin Cities archdiocese to investigate allegations

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is creating an independent task force to investigate the way church officials have handled accusations of priest misconduct, after one pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct last year and another was recently accused of having child pornography.

In a statement Sunday, Archbishop John Nienstedt said addressing these serious allegations are a "top priority."

"These allegations must be addressed urgently, transparently and with truly independent review," Nienstedt said.

To lead the new review, Nienstedt appointed the Rev. Reginald Whitt, a Dominican priest from the University of St. Thomas law school, to lead the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, which will be made up of at least six lay people appointed by Whitt. He won't be a member.

The task force will review all issues related to allegations of clergy sexual misconduct by conducting interviews and looking at archdiocese documents related to policies and procedures for preventing, investigating and responding to sexual misconduct by clergy, the archdiocese said. The group, whose members are expected to be named by Wednesday, will then come up with recommendations for effective policies.

Nienstedt first mentioned the creation of the task force on Sept. 27, nearly a year after the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer was convicted of sexually abusing two brothers at a St. Paul church. Nienstedt announced specifics about the task force Sunday, days after another priest was accused of possessing child pornography years ago, and the archdiocese's top deputy resigned last week.

The archdiocese said the Rev. Peter Laird's resignation as vicar general had nothing to do with Wehmeyer's case.

Outside of the archdiocesan offices on Monday, members and supporters of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said at a news conference that they've seen similar panels before.

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