Archdiocese on track to meet settlement’s first-year requirements, but work remains

| December 8, 2016 | 2 Comments

One year after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis reached a significant settlement agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office pledging to continue to improve safe environment policies and granting the county oversight, it is preparing to report to the court on progress made.

The archdiocese is scheduled to appear before a Ramsey County judge Dec. 20 in the second of eight six-month hearings on its progress to implement the settlement agreement. The Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment has been collaborating with other archdiocesan offices, parish and school staff, and other stakeholders to fulfill each of the agreement’s provisions.

Tim O'Malley

Tim O’Malley

In December 2015, the archdiocese settled a civil petition Ramsey County had filed against it in June 2015 alleging that the archdiocese failed to keep children safe in 2008-2011 in the case of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who was convicted of sexually abusing three boys at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. The settlement included a 24-page agreement outlining child protection measures the archdiocese had already implemented or promised to implement.

In July, the archdiocese and county agreed to amend the settlement agreement as part of the county’s dismissal of criminal charges it had filed against the archdiocese, also related to Wehmeyer, along with the civil petition. Under the revised settlement, Ramsey County has oversight of the archdiocese’s child protection policies and procedures until 2020.

Janell Rasmussen

Janell Rasmussen

At the same July court hearing where Ramsey County announced it was dropping the criminal charges, the judge commended the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the archdiocese for their efforts to keep children safe.

The archdiocese hired Janell Rasmussen as the deputy director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment in February to oversee the archdiocese’s continued fulfillment of the agreement. She previously worked for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, where she coordinated the state’s AMBER Alert program, which helps to locate missing children. Tim O’Malley, director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, said Rasmussen was hired for her subject matter expertise and her ability to oversee important and complex projects.

Rasmussen said that although she thought the archdiocese was on track to meet the settlement agreement’s first-year requirements, much work remains to ensure improvements across the archdiocese take hold for the long run.

“We’ve put a lot of work into implementing the settlement agreement, not just checking off a list of things,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve thought things through and made sure that if we’re implementing a policy that we’ve taken the time to put a process in place where stakeholders were all able to provide feedback and help with the development of that. By taking the time on this end and really doing it right, it will impact our work going forward.”

O’Malley said his team is grateful to priests, deacons, teachers, seminarians, safe environment coordinators and volunteers for the work that has been accomplished in the past year.

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Category: Local News