The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona have asked for more time to challenge a judge’s order to release the names of all priests accused of sexually abusing children and teens since 2004.
A Ramsey County district judge had initially given the church a Jan. 6 deadline to file the list of priests more recently accused of abuse. Earlier this month, Judge John Van de North postponed that deadline to Feb. 5.
But lawyers for the church argued that the court “exceeded its jurisdiction” when it ordered that the names of all priests accused of abuse, whether “credibly accused” or not, be made public. It filed papers in Ramsey County District Court Friday, asking the court to delay the Feb. 5 deadline, pending an opportunity to “fully brief the issue” before the court.
“It is the archdiocese position that this court has exceeded its jurisdiction and authority in ordering the archdiocese to make certain disclosures of all priests accused of child abuse regardless of when and under what circumstances those accusations were made,” wrote Daniel Haws, a lawyer for the archdiocese.
Attorneys for the alleged abuse victim, whose lawsuit requested the release of priests’ names, called the action an example of the church trying to hide the identities of abusers. The church has had “ample opportunity’ ” to argue against releasing the names, said attorney Mike Finnegan, of St. Paul-based Anderson & Associates.
“They are breaking their promises to the community to be open and transparent,” Finnegan said.
Both the archdiocese and the Winona diocese have released the names of clergy credibly accused of abuse before 2004, names they submitted to a national study of clergy abuse prepared for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops a decade ago.
Attorneys apparently were caught off guard earlier this month, when Van de North ordered that the list of more recent offenders include any priest who had been accused of sex abuse of a minor — regardless of whether the church deemed the accusation credible.
Group wants list released
The December order for the release of both old and new lists has allowed attorneys for “John Doe 1” to begin seeking depositions from key players in the archdiocese. They are preparing to take depositions later this month from Archbishop John Nienstedt and the Rev. Kevin McDonough, the archdiocese’s former point person on clergy abuse allegations.
The lawsuit filed last May claims the man was abused as a boy by then Rev. Tom Adamson even after the priest’s sexual misconduct was known to the church. Adamson had worked in the Winona diocese before being transferred to the archdiocese.
Advocates for Minnesotans who have been abused by clergy as children said the church should release the names of accused offenders, regardless of whether they’ve deemed it credible.
“Delays give those who commit and conceal child sex crimes more chances to … discredit witnesses, destroy evidence, invent alibis and practice “spin,” said Frank Meuers, a leader of the state chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
“Every day the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics are kept secret, innocent children are at risk,” he said