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Continued: Archbishop Nienstedt to hire firm for review of priests

“We will share results once the work is completed or as soon as we believe that we can provide a thorough update on an interim basis,’’ Accurso said. “Our goal is prudent and ongoing disclosure.”

The work will differ from that of a task force recently appointed by Nienstedt because it will focus on individual clergy files, not archdiocese policies and practices, Accurso said.

Public accounting?

Doyle said that if the archdiocese really means to ascertain the facts, the outside firm will need access to all clergy personnel files — of clergy alive and dead — as well as related documents. The review should also include personal interviews with those involved in the cases. And there should be some form of public accounting, Doyle added.

“It should detail how the case was mishandled, and who was responsible,’’ Doyle said. “The end result has to be that the archdiocese [releases] the names of credibly-accused clergy.”

This is at least the third time in the past 35 years that the archdiocese has reviewed its sexual misconduct files, said Patrick Wall, a former priest who worked in the chancery during the 1990s.

“There was a review board in 1986, another one in the 1990s, another in 2002,’’ said Wall, now a sexual abuse victims advocate in the office of attorney Jeff Anderson.

The archdiocese provided a 50-year history of sexual misconduct for a nationwide survey of clergy abuse commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published in 2004, he said.

“They [the archdiocese] already knows what’s in there,’’ Wall alleged. “This is just a smoke screen.’’

Reaction among priests varied. While Deziel said the announcement began to restore his confidence, the Rev. Terry Rasmussen, pastor of St. Joseph Parish Community in New Hope and Plymouth, said he has lost faith in Nienstedt’s ability to address the crisis.

“A lot of our parishioners are very angry and disillusioned,’’ Rassmussen said. “There’s no confidence in this archbishop that he can get us through it.’’

In his letter, Nienstedt apologized to victims, their families and others who’s faith has been shaken by the allegations.

“With genuine sorrow, I apologize to all those who have been victimized, whether on my watch or not,’’ he wrote. “Can we do better? I believe we can.”

 

Staff writer Baird Helgeson contributed to this report.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612 673-4511

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