MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Three brothers who were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest and two other alleged victims filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday demanding the names of thousands of predators they say are known to the Vatican but have been held secret for decades.
Luke, Stephen and Benedict Hoffman, who were sexually abused by former Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis priest Curtis Wehmeyer when they were minors, sued the Holy See in Minneapolis federal court, along with two other men, James Keenan and Manuel Vega. The plaintiffs are represented by lead attorney Jeff Anderson in St. Paul.
They are asking for the release of the identities of 3,400 priests accused of sexual abuse that the Vatican has allegedly hidden for decades. The complaint also seeks the release of internal records and histories of the alleged perpetrators and any other evidence held by the Vatican.
The 77-page lawsuit highlights the depth of awareness the plaintiffs claim the Vatican has had about ongoing sexual abuse by its clergymen.
“The problem of child sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic clerics and others within defendant Holy See’s control is almost as old as the Roman Catholic Church itself. The first formal legislation was passed at the Council of Elvira in Spain in 306 A.D. This council passed legislation condemning sexual abuse by the clergy, including sexual abuse of boys,” the complaint states.
In 1922, the Vatican released a confidential document concerning cases of solicitation of sex in the confessional, confirming its knowledge that there was a systematic problem of priests sexually molesting children, according to the lawsuit.
As recently as 2012, the Hoffman brothers were abused by Wehmeyer in St. Paul. According to the lawsuit, the Wehymer was promoted in 2009 despite the church knowing he had engaged in sexual misconduct, including soliciting men for sex in a park and two minor boys in a bookstore.
Wehmeyer was arrested and pleaded guilty in November 2012 to 20 criminal counts including sexual abuse and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
An investigation was also launched into his supervisor, Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt, who resigned, according to the complaint. Charges were also brought against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The archdiocese reached a settlement in 2016, admitting to failing to protect the Hoffman brothers from Wehymer in exchange for the charges being dropped, the lawsuit states.
Plaintiff Vega, who is a former police officer and U.S. Marine, currently lives in California. He claims he was molested by Father Fidencio Silva-Flores from 1979 to 1984. Silva-Flores was charged with 25 counts of child molestation by Ventura County District Attorney’s Office in 2003, according to the complaint, but the charges were reportedly dropped because the statute of limitations had passed.
In 1981, plaintiff Keenan claims he was sexually abused by Father Thomas Adamson from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Prior to being transferred to the same archdiocese as Wehymer, Adamson had been moved to different parishes in the Diocese of Winona even though he had been previously arrested for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1977, according to the complaint.
“In approximately 1980, a priest reported to Archdiocesan officials that Fr. Adamson had sexually abused a minor male. Fr. Adamson was sent for treatment and psychiatric evaluation prior to being transferred to Risen Savior, where he sexually abused plaintiff James Keenan,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs seek $75,000 in damages and a court order requiring the Vatican to disclose the names of all priests accused of abuse and end its alleged policy of dealing with allegations of child molestation in secret.
“Defendant Holy See has concealed and continues to conceal important information about its priests accused of sexual abuse of children,” the complaint states.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Apostolic Nunciature’s office – which serves as a Vatican ambassador to the U.S. – did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment on the lawsuit.