Criminal charges against archdiocese dropped

| July 20, 2016 | 3 Comments
Archbishop Bernard Hebda addresses the media at a press conference July 20 conference announcing that criminal sexual abuse charges filed against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by Ramsey County have been dismissed. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda addresses the media at a press conference July 20 announcing that the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has dismissed criminal charges alleging the archdiocese failed to protect children in the case of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. The archdiocese also announced an amendment to its civil settlement agreement with the county. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

The Ramsey County Attorney dismissed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis July 20, citing the two parties’ collaboration in child protection efforts.

At a court hearing, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring advised District Judge Teresa Warner about the dismissal, saying that after a year of litigation, it was time to bring the case to a close and help the community move forward.

Ring announced the charges’ dismissal at a hearing on the implementation of a related settlement agreement reached by the archdiocese and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, in December 2015.

In June 2015, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed six criminal charges as well as a civil petition against the archdiocese for failing to protect children in the case of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer. The charges included three counts of contributing to the need for protection or services, and three counts of contributing to a juvenile’s delinquency.

Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in 2013 of sexually abusing two brothers, both minors, at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul in 2010. He also pleaded guilty in August 2015 in a Wisconsin court of sexually assaulting a third brother on a camping trip.

Wehmeyer served at Blessed Sacrament from 2006 to 2012, when he was removed from ministry. Pope Francis dismissed him from the clerical state in 2015, meaning he can no longer exercise priestly ministry or present himself as a priest. He is currently in prison.

Ring said the victims, their families and their attorneys supported the charges’ dismissal.

Speaking at a press conference following the court hearing, Archbishop Bernard Hebda acknowledged the archdiocese’s failure in handling Wehmeyer’s case.

“We failed to give priority to the safety and well-being of the children he hurt over the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the archdiocese,” he said. “In particular, we failed to prevent Curtis Wehmeyer from sexually abusing children. Those children, their parents, their family, their parish and others were harmed. We are sorry. I am sorry.”

The archdiocese filed an admission of wrongdoing in its handling of the situation with the court July 20.

“Words alone are not enough,” the archbishop acknowledged. “We must, we will, and we are doing better. Far-reaching changes are underway.”

In the December settlement, the archdiocese agreed to Ramsey County’s oversight of child protection measures it had already implemented or had promised to implement. Also on July 20, the court accepted the six-month progress report on the measures, noting that it reflected significant collaboration between the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the archdiocese.

“If the efforts of the first six months continue for the next three-and-a-half years, it means kids are being protected and the right thing is being done,” Warner said.

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  • Nancy Ahlgren

    Thank you, Archbishop Hebda. Thank you for your stated acknowledgement to God for His guidance. Thank you for the efforts to date and ongoing by you, Bishop Cozzens and Timothy O’Maley et al., but I especially appreciate yours and Bishop Cozzens’ clearly apparent dependence upon God and continual cultivation of your relationships with Him.

  • emmettcoyne

    Amazing the spin to title of article, Criminal charges against archdiocese dropped!
    It fails to highlight the archdiocese’s culpability. The conservative Wall St. Journal had a more correct reading: Twin Cities Archdiocese Admits Wrongdoing in Abuse Coverup.
    Shame on archbishop Hebda to continue the denial of the moral and legal failure of archbishops, not the abstract entity, archdiocese. None of the culprits are mentioned by name. Pervasive denial.
    Interesting how Hebda will handle Daniel Griffith!
    These many, many years and the hierarchy has learned so little, denies so much.
    “And Jesus wept!”

    • Dave Diamond

      Devil in the flesh wins again. It will take more than Our Fathers & Hail Marys in confession to remove the lies that remain.