Archdiocese amends settlement agreement; Wetterling named to review board

| July 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is adding child advocate Patty Wetterling to its Ministerial Review Board and extending the length of its civil settlement agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office as part of an amendment submitted July 20 to District Judge Teresa Warner.

At a press conference following the hearing at which the archdiocese presented its first six-month progress report on the agreement, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said it’s “committed to a course of action that will keep kids as safe as possible.”

“The civil settlement agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney, which today we expanded and also extended for a total of four years, holds the archdiocese accountable and ensures that our actions will continue to match our words,” he said.

The archdiocese and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office entered into a settlement agreement in December 2015 on a civil petition the county filed against the archdiocese in June of that year alleging it failed to protect children in the case of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who in 2013 pleaded guilty in a Minnesota court of sexually abusing two boys at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul in 2010. He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a third boy in a Wisconsin court in 2015.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi requested Wetterling’s appointment to the archdiocese’s Ministerial Review Board, which is composed of laity and clergy who examine claims of clergy sexual abuse. Since Wetterling’s son, Jacob, was abducted in 1989 in St. Joseph, she’s been an advocate for child protection. The archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment, Tim O’Malley, worked on the Wetterling case as an agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“I understand the vital importance of the work of the Ministerial Review Board in keeping our communities as safe as possible,” Wetterling said in a July 20 statement. “For me, this is a great opportunity to help champions that I have always admired build a world where children can grow up free from sexual exploitation.”

Prior to submitting the amendment to Warner, attorneys for Ramsey County and the archdiocese agreed that the archdiocese’s progress report satisfied the county attorney’s requirements and demonstrated a significant effort to protect children.

Warner commended both parties’ collaboration to move forward and their shared acknowledgement to want to do the right thing.

“You rolled up your sleeves, and you looked at what you could do to protect kids going forward,” she said.

The amendment also includes a public admission of wrongdoing from the archdiocese regarding Wehmeyer’s victims, the archbishop’s participation in at least three restorative justice sessions, the lifting of prior confidentiality agreements made with victims, and a commitment to maintain the position of a director of safe environment and ministerial standards.

At the archdiocese’s press conference, Deputy Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment Janell Rasmussen noted that since the agreement was reached, archdiocesan leaders have been working closely with Choi and his team and will continue to seek their advice and assistance.

Describing the day as one of “solemn reckoning and self-assessment,” Rasmussen said their work will never be done. “Today, tomorrow and every day we will ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing all we can to make sure children are safe?’”

Rasmussen also outlined the ongoing collaboration of the safe environment office with the archdiocese’s advisory boards.

The Ramsey County District Attorney’s Office also announced at the hearing that it was dropping criminal charges against the archdiocese related to its handling of the Wehmeyer case.

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Category: Local News