Former St. Paul Archdiocese employee asks for comprehensive review of clergy

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2013 - 6:46 AM

Jennifer Haselberger resigned from her job over allegations that her concerns about priest sexual misconduct were ignored

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Jennifer Haselberger, seen in a Sept. 10, 2013, photo, was canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis until her resignation in April.

Photo: Jennifer Simonson / MPR, Associated Press

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A former employee of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Saturday asked that the archbishop conduct a “comprehensive, external review” of files of all clergy.

Jennifer Haselberger, 38, said she resigned from her job as chancellor for canonical affairs last fall because top church officials failed to pursue her allegations of sexual and other misconduct involving several members of the clergy.

Haselberger is at the center of an investigation about pornography found on a priest’s computer. On the same day new information was revealed, Peter Laird, who held the No. 2 position at the archdiocese, suddenly resigned.

In a prepared statement Saturday, Haselberger made a plea for action, asking that Archbishop John Nienstedt “take his responsibilities toward the protection of the young and the vulnerable seriously.”

Haselberger asked that Nienstedt review clergy files and “remove from ministry and make public the list of clergy who have been determined to have engaged in acts of sexual misconduct, as well as those whom could reasonably be assumed to pose a threat to children and young people. Until this occurs, I do not believe that it can be said that the Archdiocese is honoring its promise to protect.”

Haselberger said in a deposition last month that child pornography had been copied from a priest’s computer hard drive and stored on discs in a vault by church officials.

An attorney for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Friday that neither police investigators nor a computer forensics expert found evidence to support her allegations that one of its priests had viewed child pornography on his computer.

Tom Wieser, an attorney for the archdiocese, said Friday that some “false inferences” have been drawn from police reports that seem to imply that child pornography was found on the priest’s old hard drive.

Paul Engh, an attorney representing the suspect priest, said he’s read the entire computer forensics report.

“There’s porn,” Engh acknowledged. “There’s just not child porn.”

The Star Tribune has not identified the priest because he has not been charged with a crime.

Engh predicted that his client would not be charged. He said his client, who’s currently on leave because of the investigation, wants to return to an active post.

The archdiocese released a statement Friday that didn’t address the specific case but said, “It is critical to understand that our standard is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult and absolute accountability.”

The St. Paul police, Ramsey County and Washington County all indicated they would consider new investigations should evidence supporting the allegation — which surfaced for the second time Thursday — prove compelling.

 

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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