St. Paul police on Thursday asked any victims of clergy abuse to come forward while it continues to pursue its investigation into whether a Catholic priest downloaded child pornography.
"If you have been sexually abused by a member of the clergy in St. Paul, the St. Paul police department encourages you to come forward and report the sexual abuse directly to the St. Paul police department," said St. Paul Police Commander Mary Nash, head of the family and sexual violence unit, at a news conference.
Last week, the department announced that it had reopened a 2004 child porn case in light of new information including an additional copy of the images that the Hugo parishioner who originally discovered the porn on the priest's computer turned in as well as leaked internal church documents that described the images as "borderline illegal'' and indicated that church officials were concerned about possible prosecution.
The renewed investigation follows allegations by former canonical chancellor, Jennifer Haselberger, who resigned in April, that the church hierarchy failed to report child endangerment and child pornography to law enforcement.
St. Paul police said their investigation remains ongoing and that the case has not been forwarded to prosecutors. Nash wouldn't say if additional victims had already contacted the department or whether or not investigators suspect that there are other accused priests.
"I would like to say to those victims whether you have come forward with your abuse or whether you are working to cross that threshold of disclosure, you are stronger than you know. You rise each day with courage to survive knowing that your faith has been tested beyond belief," said Nash, who disclosed that she herself grew up Catholic.
She encouraged other Catholics to "keep the faith" and believe in the police's efforts to help find the truth. To reach out to the police department, residents can call 651-291-1111.
The case had been idle since police reviewed three discs containing images from the priest's hard drive and found no child porn. But the investigating officer noted in a report that the priest's computer had been destroyed long before so that it couldn't be certain that the discs reviewed by police contained the same content that was originally reviewed by a forensics expert hired by the archdiocese.
The University of St. Thomas is also launching an investigation of Rev. Michael J. Keating, the Catholic priest named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed Monday in Ramsey County. In the suit, the Catholic studies professor is accused of sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in the late 1990s. St. Paul police are not involved in that investigation.