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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Minneapolis Archdiocese Settles Priest Abuse Case

(CN) - A new settlement with survivors of sexual abuse by priests requires the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to report future allegations to the police.

Archbishop John Nienstedt did not attend the Monday press conference announcing the settlement because he said he had embarked on a mission trip to Kitui, Kenya, just one week earlier.

Speaking in Nienstedt's place, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens noted that Nienstedt had spent Sunday giving "the sacrament of confirmation to just over 200 young people in a remote part of Africa."

The settlement comes in a lawsuit led by the anonymous victims of sexual abuse by Thomas Adamson, a former priest in the Diocese of Winona.

Adamson testified in June that he first admitted to abusing children in 1964, but he remained as parish priest until 1985, and was not defrocked until 2009. He acknowledged that he abused 10 boys on the prosecutor's list of 38 names, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported .

Though the church sent Adamson to several therapists, it did not report him to the police, and now the statute of limitations shields Adamson from facing criminal charges.

Adamson testified that he did not realize the gravity of his actions at the time: "I looked at it more as a sin than ... a crime," he told the court.

As part of the settlement, the Archdiocese agreed to implement 17 protocols designed to protect children from pedophiles in the Catholic church.

Archbishop Nienstedt said in a statement that the agreement "represents a historic moment in our efforts to assure the safety of children and vulnerable adults."

The new protocols require the archdiocese to report child-abuse allegations to the police. If there is a credible claim against any clergy or nonclergy for sexual abuse of a minor, the protocols forbid the recommendation of that person for a position in active ministry or a position that requires contact with children.

The archdiocese shall also disclose any accusation of sexual abuse of a child to a diocese or Catholic entity, or secular employer who requests such information.

"It's my prayer that through this the healing of Jesus will come to many broken hearts," Cozzens said.

Church leadership promised to meet privately any survivor desiring such contact, and the archbishop will honor requests for a personally signed letter of apology to a survivor with a credible claim of sexual abuse.

The archdiocese meanwhile will continue improving employee training to identify signs of abuse, and encourage the reporting of abuse.

It also said it would make a "good faith effort" to obtain individual written statements from all of its priests and other clergy, attesting to that man's history of never having sexually abused a minor and never having known about such abuse by another priest of the archdiocese.

Vicar General Rev. Charles Lachowitzer said at the press conference: "The true voice of the church is not spoken when we are on opposing sides, and are adversaries. The common ground on which we stand is the shared goal to work together to assure victims and survivors that no child will ever have to go through what they have gone through."

Al Michaud and Jim Keenan identified themselves as victims at the conference, saying they hoped the settlement will help other survivors speak out and move beyond their suffering.

The victims' attorney, Jeff Anderson, said, "This child protection protocol, invested in by Doe 1, survivors and the archdiocese, signals a new day and a new way for protection of children, healing of survivors, and full transparency and disclosure in a new way we've never seen."

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