Two Twin Cities priests are put on leave while under review

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2013 - 9:33 PM

The archdiocese cited instances of inappropriate conduct involving minors.

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Chancery office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in St. Paul.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Two more Catholic priests have been placed on leave from active ministry after outside investigators found that they had been involved in inappropriate conduct with minors.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced Sunday that the Rev. Mark Wehmann and the Rev. Joseph Gallatin agreed to the leaves after their files were reviewed by Kinsale Management Consulting, a Los Angeles firm hired by the archdiocese to review files of active clergy members after widespread allegations that the church hierarchy had not acted to address the problems.

The two will remain pastors but won’t perform public ministry until the reviews are completed. Both are accused of “boundary violations,” which archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso described as “inappropriate behavior that is not a crime and not sexual abuse.”

Wehmann, 44, has been serving as a pastor at St. Boniface Church in northeast Minneapolis since July and, before that, led Church of St. Bridget of Sweden in Lindstrom, Minn. Until recently he also was a part-time chaplain at Fairview University Hospital in Minneapolis. The review found that Wehmann had been involved in several inappropriate incidents with minors.

According to an archdiocese statement, church officials notified law enforcement about most of those incidents in the past and police determined that no criminal charges were appropriate. The archdiocese said it recently informed law enforcement about the remaining issues.

Wehmann could not be reached Sunday, nor could anyone at St. Boniface Church.

Gallatin, 43, has been pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota since July 2008. The Kinsale firm identified a single incident of inappropriate conduct that occurred many years ago involving Gallatin, the archdiocese said. Kinsale concluded that the single incident did not involve a crime, but the archdiocese recently informed law enforcement about it anyway.

Gallatin didn’t return a call to his home Sunday.

“It’s a very difficult time right now. It’s a sensitive issue,” said Ann Hoey, a Pastoral Council member at St. Peter.

“He has been a wonderful priest and pastor for our parish, an exceptional leader,” Hoey said. “I think he has been a great example of what it is to be Catholic.”

The Kinsale firm began its review of active clergy files earlier this month.

Accurso said he didn’t know how long the review will take.

The two leaves come as Twin Cities Catholics confront a flood of allegations of priest sexual abuse as well as accusations that some Catholic leaders did not address the problem.

Concern over the church’s handling of the abuse allegations cost the Rev. Peter Laird his job as the archdiocese’s vicar general, and it also prompted abrupt resignations from the University of St. Thomas board by former Archbishop Harry Flynn and his former top deputy, the Rev. Kevin McDonough. The three had been under fire for ignoring earlier warnings of sexual misconduct.

Archbishop John Nien­stedt voluntarily stopped his public ministry on Dec. 17 while St. Paul police investigate an allegation that he inappropriately touched a boy on the buttocks in 2009. Nienstedt called the claim “absolutely and entirely false.”

Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul lawyer who has brought many successful lawsuits against the church alleging the sexual abuse of minors by priests and others, said he wasn’t aware of suits against Wehmann or Gallatin.

“We have known that the disclosures made so far were deficient,” Anderson said. “So every time more disclosures of those credibly accused are made, that is progress, a step in the right direction.”

Accurso said he is not aware of any lawsuits or settlements involving the two priests.

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