We have a major Catholic sex abuse case going on in Minnesota, and it’s slowly coming to an end. Right now, it’s like a game of “good news, bad news,” though.
Those claims were bolstered by an MPR News investigation last fall that showed top church officials continued to protect priests accused of abuse. One priest, the Rev. Clarence Vavra, had privately admitted to sexually abusing a child on an Indian reservation in South Dakota in the 1970s. MPR News found him living half a block from a school. In another case, Harry Walsh, a former priest who was accused of abusing two children, had been hired by Wright County to teach sex ed to at-risk teenagers.
Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Archbishop Harry Flynn did not notify police or the public about the allegations against Vavra and Walsh and kept other clerics in ministry despite allegations of sexual misconduct, according to documents obtained by MPR News. Flynn and Nienstedt also gave special monthly payments to priests who had admitted to sexually assaulting children.
Good news. Investigators came up with a novel strategy for tackling the problem: they accused the church of being a “public nuisance”. It sounds like a trivialization, but just think Al Capone and tax fraud.
The broad public nuisance claim also forced church officials to testify under oath and turn over decades of documents that showed a widespread cover-up of clergy sex abuse. Unlike a standard negligence case, the public nuisance argument allowed Anderson to obtain more than 50,000 pages from the files of every priest accused of abuse dating back decades — over the objections of a team of church lawyers who argued that the information was not relevant and could ruin the reputations of innocent men.
Prosecutors have not filed criminal charges against church officials for failing to report a suspected child sex abuse to police or social services providers, despite a state law that requires priests, teachers, medical professionals and others to report recent allegations of abuse.
So no one is going to jail for raping children. Good news:
Over the past year, some parishioners have withheld donations out of fear that the money could be used for abuse lawsuits, and the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Winona diocese are considering filing for bankruptcy, according to documents and interviews with former high-ranking church officials.
However, both Catholic organizations have insurance that will likely cover a significant portion of financial settlements and attorneys’ fees.
And some I-don’t-know-how-this-will-turn-out news:
Attorney Jeff Anderson will announce a settlement agreement Monday in the landmark public nuisance lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona, according to a source with knowledge of the announcement.
The settlement will include an agreement for how church officials will handle future allegations of abuse, the source said. Vicar General Charles Lachowitzer and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, both of the Twin Cities archdiocese, are slated to attend the news conference at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Victims of abuse have also been invited.
I have a sinking feeling that this will be a settlement to the benefit of the church, and you all will get to read about more child-raping scandals in 2030.