Thursday, October 10, 2013

Recap of a series of unfortunate events in Minneapolis St. Paul

I will attempt to recap
Nienstedt’s top deputy resigned abruptly Thursday in response to an allegation that he covered up evidence of child pornography on a computer owned by a Hugo priest[Fr. Jonathan Shelley].

The accusation came from attorney Jennifer Haselberger, a former high-ranking lay official within the archdiocese. And it followed her earlier accusation that the archdiocese overlooked for nearly a decade the sexual compulsions of another priest — Curtis Wehmeyer of St. Paul — and did not warn parishioners. Wehmeyer is now in prison, convicted of sexually abusing two boys.

Haselberger declined requests for comment last week, but on Saturday she issued a blunt challenge to Nienstedt.

She said in a statement that she resigned as chancellor for canonical affairs in April because church leaders’ refusal to act on her allegations made it “impossible for me to continue in that position given my personal ethics, religious convictions and sense of integrity.’’

Haselberger called for Nienstedt to order a comprehensive external review of the clergy and that he make public the names of all those who have engaged in acts of sexual misconduct or could reasonably be assumed to pose a threat to children.

“Until this occurs, I do not believe that it can be said that the Archdiocese is honoring its promise to protect,’’ Haselberger concluded.
SNAP actually has a nice list of relevant documents to this case.

Copies of Hugo priest's alleged porn turned over to police
Haselberger told police she had seen an investigator's report that child porn images were on Shelley's hard drive. But discs turned over to police contained only adult pornography. On Sunday, St. Paul police closed their investigation for lack of evidence

None of what Ternus saw was child pornography, he said.
Here's what they did find, which is why police dismissed charges
In a separate memo, dated Jan. 27, 2013, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, who headed the Church's child-safety program, told Nienstedt that at least four of the images were "quite likely of minors." He found no need to take further action because "the images themselves were not pornographic, but enticements to take a further step to view pornography" and appeared to be pop-up advertisements. "Were Father Shelley to have clicked on such advertisements, he would likely have been caught in a law-enforcement sting," McDonough wrote. [Which is really what it had boiled down to until recently]
Nienstedt drafted letter to Vatican about porn on Hugo priest's computer, report says
In another document obtained by a radio reporter, Haselberger discloses her concern, as expressed to Nienstedt, about the Shelley case. In a letter to the archbishop in May 2012, Haselberger said the archdiocese in 2004 asked Shelley to allow church officials to examine two personal computers.

"When he received that request, Father Shelley immediately destroyed one of the computers, and while he initially indicated he would permit an analysis of the third computer, he changed his mind and never provided the archdiocese with access to it," Haselberger wrote. [I've read a bunch, and it's not clear who knew that he had destroyed a computer]
St. Paul police reopen Hugo priest child porn investigation
Police have received "several pieces of new information" about the allegations involving porn on a computer hard drive, police spokesman Howie Padilla said Tuesday. "Today we decided it is imperative for us to reopen the investigation," he said. Padilla said he would not elaborate on what was in the files or the source of the information.

"On Friday, we received information from an individual, not necessarily an individual connected with the archdiocese," Padilla said.
Nienstedt orders independent review of church handling of clergy sexual abuse
Archbishop John Nienstedt announced Sunday that he's asked a University of St. Thomas law professor and priest to assemble a task force to study how the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is handling clergy sexual misconduct.

A letter sent by the archdiocese to parish priests said addressing the allegations is "the top priority for the archdiocese."

The archdiocese urged priests to announce at mass this weekend that Nienstedt has appointed the Rev. Reginald Whitt, a Dominican priest and University of St. Thomas law professor, to lead the creation of a task force to review all issues related to clergy misconduct. Whitt will appoint a task force of lay people but will not be a member of the group. The letter said the board will make specific recommendations and will release the report to the public.
And then this comes up too:

Mother alleges wider church coverup of clergy sexual misconduct
A day after Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba told parishioners that he is “completely committed” to assisting victims of clergy sexual misconduct, a St. Paul mother accused him of participating in a coverup involving a priest who abused two of her boys.

“There’s nothing Catholic about it. There’s nothing Christian about it. There’s nothing decent about it,” the mother said Monday in an interview with the Star Tribune.

She was referring in part to a phone call she received from Sirba in 2009, when he was vicar general of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese.

She said Sirba called her after learning that one of her boys had gone camping alone with the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, who later was convicted of sexually abusing the child and his brother. The mother said Sirba told her to make sure another adult was present on any future trips — but that he said the gist of his message was that supervision was needed to protect priests from the appearance of scandal. 
[bad. very bad.]
There was some question if he was ever Vicar General, which he was:

Here is a list of the recent Vicar Generals of the Archdiocese.

Fr. Kevin McDonough 1991-2008
Father Lee Piche' Apr 2008 to Jun 30, 2009;
Father Paul Sirba July 2009 to December 2009
Father Peter Laird December 2009 to September 2013

Fr. Piche became an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese on May 27, 2009

Well okay.  So at this time Shelley is still innocent and waiting upon further review of this "new evidence."  If it is indeed some popup ad that is in question, I just really don't think that qualifies as criminal behavior.  On the other hand, if it is true that he destroyed evidence and Laird KNEW that he destroyed it, and possibly withheld that information from police(or maybe there's nothing they could do about it).....  Let's say this, I think we all have this great fear that diocesan politics is very much like politics at the country club.  They take care of their own and to hell with any outsiders.  Compliance to the Dallas Charter doesn't mean sh** if that's all protecting children means in the country club.  The fear is that dioceses are more worried about law suit protection than child protection.  With Sirba, this could be exactly the mentality we are afraid of, BUT I think that the media is all too excited to blow this up as well so read every report with a grain of salt.

Just make sure we are compliant and there is an adult along is not enough.  Someone's got to be the a-hole and kick a priest to the curb if he presents a serious threat to kids, I don't care if that leave a parish without a priest or if the bishop or vicar general went to school with him and it just isn't nice to pry into things like that.  Someone has to get their hands dirty when there's a mess to clean up.

I should add this
Sirba also has recently been in the news for his role as vicar general of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, where he has been criticized for his handling of allegations of sexual abuse by Farther Curtis Wehmeyer and another priest whose computer was found to contain pornography, including apparent depictions of underage children involved in sex acts.

The bishop stated, in an interview (in the Minneapolis Star Tribune published Tuesday), that he did not knowingly participate in any cover-up and that he reached out to the victims’ mother for the protection of her children.”
Duluth Trib 

And don't forget this:
A total of six court hearings seeking the release of secret lists, ­involving every diocese in ­Minnesota, are slated for this fall, with additional actions targeting about a dozen Catholic religious orders in Minnesota, said St. Paul [SNAP] attorney Jeff Anderson, who is leading the effort.

Release of the full tally, which might run to dozens of priests facing credible allegations of abuse, could ignite an entirely new round of accusations and lawsuits at a time when many Catholics thought the worst of the clergy sex abuse tragedy was behind the church.

In the past, the courts have sided with the church on the issue because Minnesota’s statute of limitations gave child sexual abuse victims only until age 24 to take legal action.   [Boom, there it is.  He's off looking for another cash cow to prosecute dead priests.]

But a state law that took effect in May gives victims older than 24 a three-year window to sue for past abuse. Anyone younger than 24 has unlimited time to take legal action.


  1. Noticeably absent from any of these news reports is who was archbishop when the porn was first discovered. It was Flynn, the darling of the progressives and Rainbow Sashers. It was Flynn that allowed UST to become completely lay--just months before his coadjutor would take office--and while accepting a five yr term on the UST board.

    But the fundamental problem here is that both archbishops having been acting on a purely natural level and with regard to what is defendable in civil court. To find a priest involved in porn--a mortal sin-- and permit him to continue to commit sacrilege at the altar with his filthy hands is utterly derelict on the part of those who are spiritual fathers, and whose first duty is to protect the dignity of the liturgy and the sacred Eucharist—the “summit and source of Christian life”. By allowing these sacrileges, they--the archbishops--participate in the sins of the priests who defile themselves with civilly legal impurities.

    The crisis in the Church today is not one of the laity nor even of the priesthood. It is one centered in the spiritual corruption of the episcopacy. That's what the neo-cat bloggers don't want to talk about. While the Fat Man at AOTM was technically correct about the role of the laity in the crisis, he's not fulfilling it. In order to bear up under the crisis, faithful laity need to understand what it is. Otherwise, each time an incident like this comes to light, there is discouragement, demoralization, and doubt among the faithful.

    There are nine ways of participating in sin: By counsel, by command, by consent, by provocation, by praise or flattery, by concealment, by partaking, by silence, by defense of the ill done.

    When one examines these ways and starts to re-evaluate how both the episcopacy handles sin in the leadership roles of the Church as well as how bloggers like the Fat Man respond (and fail to respond), a whole different perspective emerges. When the Fat Man is silent, conceals, or defends the errors of the episcopacy, he cooperates. When he counsels or virtually commands others to be silent on these matters, he cooperates. That's just a start.

  2. It would certainly be challenging for the laity to be confronted by the whole reality of the crisis. But at least then, when incidents like this surface, it is expected, not shocking. It allows the faithful to dig in and prepare properly for the fight.

    Churchill in facing the task of confronting the Nazis did not try to minimize the situation.
    "I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, and France has suffered even more than we have....the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course."

    While it is true that the laity have no recourse other than repentance, prayer, and fasting, it is equally true that they must be reminded that the crisis in the episcopacy is a Divine punishment inflicted on the laity precisely to bring about repentance [cf St Eudes]. Pretending that Springtime is coming with the very next Dawn, does not lead to repentance and fervent prayer, but rather to laxity and premature celebration of Easter.

    We must first endure this dark Saturday.

    Churchill again:
    "I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many long months of toil and struggle.
    “You ask what is our policy. I will say, it is to wage war with all our might, with all the strength that God can give us, to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.
    "You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival."

    Who speaks like this in our Episcopacy in face of the total collapse of our society and Church? Which neo-cat is willing to admit it?

    Pin your hopes on a premature Springtime, and you will lose your crops and hopes with the next bitter snowstorm.

    I, for one, am in it for the long fight.
    "[I] shall not flag or fail. [I] shall go on to the end… [I] shall fight on the seas and oceans, [I] shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. [I] shall defend our [Church], whatever the cost may be. [I] shall fight on the beaches, [I] shall fight on the landing-grounds, [I] shall fight in the fields and in the streets, [I] shall fight in the hills. [I] shall never surrender!"


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