Releasing names of priests accused of abuse will not end pressure on church

Minnesota’s Catholic dioceses under pressure to make public the names of additional accused clerics.

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Kathy Lauwagie, of Maplewood, joined protesters last month across the street from the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul to call for Archbishop John Nienstedt's resignation over his handling of clergy sex abuse cases.

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The naming Thursday of 32 priests accused of child sex abuse in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese will not end the pressure on the Catholic Church in Minnesota.

More than twice that number who served in other dioceses across the state and have been similarly accused have yet to be publicly named. And victims’ advocates charge that the archdiocese’s list was incomplete.

“Victims are already asking, ‘Why isn’t the cleric who hurt me on the newly disclosed list?’ ” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Thursday’s disclosure was an unprecedented step that had been tenaciously resisted by the archdiocese for years. It took place only after a judge presiding over an abuse case ordered that the list be made public. For some victims and church members, the moment was cathartic, but more wrenching disclosures are coming.

Another list is expected to go public this week, when the Diocese of Winona said it will unseal at least 13 names of accused priests, under the same Ramsey County Court order that required the Twin Cities archdiocese to act.

Lawsuits against the Duluth and New Ulm dioceses demanding that their lists be unsealed have scheduled court dates next month. A case against the Diocese of Crookston awaits a judge’s ruling.

“There is increased pressure, and increased permission, for other bishops to follow what has happened here,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney at Anderson Advocates, the St. Paul firm handling abuse cases.

Added Clohessy: “Four or five other judges will be confronting the same choice. It puts more pressure on more judges and bishops.”

The dioceses’ lists cover the period from 1950 to 2002. A separate list exists of clergy credibly accused of abuse after 2004. “Credibly accused” means the church believes there is evidence that abuse occurred, not necessarily that the case was proved in court.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso said church officials expect to add more names to their list and are open to receiving more names.

Missing names

Some church observers argue that the archdiocese list remains incomplete.

Patrick Marker, an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, said three monks from St. John’s Abbey are not listed despite prior acknowledgment by the archdiocese that they were accused of child sexual abuse that occurred in the Twin Cities.

“It’s impossible that this is a comprehensive list,” said Marker, who operates behindthepinecurtain.com, which focuses on abusive monks at St. John’s.

Among the names that should be on the list is the Rev. Thomas Gillespie, he said. Marker said he received a document from St. John’s officials while he was a member of the St. John’s Abbey External Review Board that said Gillespie admitted to sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy in Stillwater. A settlement in the case was reached in 1997, the document said.

It said the abuse occurred in 1978, when Gillespie was listed as a priest at St. Bernard’s in St. Paul and as pastor at St. Mary’s in Stillwater.

Accurso said Friday that he would give Gillespie’s name to officials at the chancery.

  • priests accused of child sex abuse

    Twin Cities: 32

    Winona: 13

    St. Cloud: 26

    Duluth: 17

    New Ulm: 12

    Crookston: 5

    Source: Jeff Anderson and Associates

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