Twin Cities Archdiocese appoints former BCA chief to clergy abuse oversight

Timothy O’Malley takes job to restore credibility in wake of ongoing church crisis.


Judge Timothy O'Malley, left, and Archbishop John Nienstedt talked about the appointment of O'Malley to the new position of director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Monday August 25, 2014, in St. Paul.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese has turned to a Minnesota law enforcement veteran to oversee its effort to address clergy sex abuse.

Timothy O’Malley, the former head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, will fill a leadership position created by the archdiocese in response to the wave of clergy abuse allegations in the past year.

“I bring a background that hasn’t been here before,” said O’Malley, who met with reporters Monday alongside Archbishop John Nienstedt.

“I’ve investigated sexual abuse, homicides, other violent crimes. I think I understand what law enforcement needs to be successful, to ensure justice can prevail.”

O’Malley said he also brings decades of experience working with victims of violent crime, including cases ranging from the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling to the 2003 Rocori High School shooting in Cold Spring, Minn. Said O’Malley: “There’s a certain compassion I bring to the job to help victims in the future.”

Nienstedt said O’Malley had the right set of qualifications for the key clergy oversight position, including intellect, an impressive career in law enforcement, and “a compassionate heart for victims/survivors.”

“It’s important that the judge establish good relationships with priests, that they know he is a man of integrity, a man of fairness, that he is here to determine the truth of any particular allegation,” said Nienstedt.

The archdiocese has been rocked by allegations of abuse since last year, when the Legislature made it possible for older abuse cases to be heard by the courts.

On Monday, the trial date for a lawsuit against former priest Tom Adamson was postponed from Sept. 22 to Nov. 3. The move came in response to requests by the archdiocese and attorneys for the alleged victim. Even before trial, the case has resulted in the unprecedented release of documents and names of accused priests.

The new trial date is set with the expectation that it will not take more than five weeks, ruled Ramsey District Judge John Van de North.

New job at archdiocese

A task force that reviewed the archdiocese’s handling of the abuse cases had recommended earlier this year that the church create the position that O’Malley will hold, called director of ministerial standards and safe environment. The position oversees a team of church leaders handling sexual abuse reports, victims services, staff training and interactions with the Clergy Review Board.

Advocates for people abused by priests said it was “a positive step.”

“They put a cop at the top, and that’s good,” said Bob Schwi­derski, Minnesota director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Historically they had a cleric overseeing abuse investigations. They’d have an in-house investigation and claim they couldn’t substantiate it.”

O’Malley begins his job Sept. 15. He is currently the deputy chief judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings, an executive branch tribunal that resolves more than 6,000 cases each year.

He worked at the Minnesota BCA from 1989 to 2010, with positions ranging from SWAT commander to special agent to superintendent.

Before that, he was an FBI special agent and a BCA undercover investigator.

Raised a Catholic, he attended 16 years of Catholic schools. His religious affiliations are now more “independent,” he said.

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