The Diocese of New Ulm must release its list of priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, under a ruling made by a Brown County judge.
New Ulm is the last diocese in the state to keep its list of priest offenders under wraps. The names were compiled in 2003, under a nationwide study by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, when now-archbishop John Nienstedt oversaw the diocese.
Last week’s ruling by Judge Robert Docherty came in response to lawsuits filed by attorney Jeff Anderson on behalf of alleged abuse victims of New Ulm priests.
The Brown County district judge ruled that the diocese created a “public nuisance” by allowing the priests to continue serving parishes even as it was aware of previous sexual misconduct that was not reported to police.
Anderson’s office soon will seek the diocese’s files and other documents related to the child sex offenders, said Mike Finnegan, an attorney with the Anderson law firm.
The ruling will “have the same impact” as the decision by Judge John Van de North in Ramsey County in December 2013, which opened thousands of pages of clergy documents from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he said.
“Today’s decision allows us … to uncover long-held secrets of abuse in the Diocese of New Ulm, make the information public and make the diocese a safer place,” said Finnegan.
The diocese did not respond to a request for comment.
Anderson’s office has filed seven lawsuits on behalf of abuse victims against the New Ulm diocese and has more than 20 others pending, said Finnegan.
Docherty’s ruling came in response to two lawsuits, one that involved the Rev. Michael Skoblik and the other against the Rev. Francis Markey.