Members of Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force announced

| October 10, 2013
Brian P. Short, a member of the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, speaks at a press conference introducing the group's members Oct. 9 in Minneapolis. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

Brian P. Short, a member of the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, speaks at a press conference introducing the group’s members Oct. 9 in Minneapolis. (Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit)

Seven members of an all lay member task force charged with reviewing the archdiocese’s policies and practices related to clergy sexual misconduct were announced at an Oct. 9 press conference in Minneapolis. A seventh member was announced Oct. 24.

They were appointed by Dominican Father Reginald Whitt, who was appointed Oct. 5 by Archbishop John Nienstedt as the archdiocese’s new vicar for ministerial standards. Father Whitt, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, is overseeing all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct. He is not a member of the task force himself.

The members — none of whom are employed by the archdiocese or any of its parishes — bring different areas of expertise to the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force, whose findings and recommendations will be released publicly when a final report is complete.

The members are:

Kathleen Erickson DiGiorno, an attorney at Medtronic. From 2006 to 2010, she served as the company’s chief ethics and compliance officer.

Julie Oseid, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, where she has taught since 2004. Previously, Oseid practiced law at Oppenheimer, Wolff, and Donnelly; between 1991 and 2004 she was at home raising three children.

Vicki Oster, whose appointment was announced Oct. 24, is a general pediatrician at Southdale Pediatric Associates, Ltd., where she has been in practice since 1994. She is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, where she has taught safe environment lessons for the past seven years to sixth- through ninth-graders in faith formation classes.

Brook T. Schaub, manager of computer forensics/e-discovery at Eide Bailly, LLP. Previously, he served as an instructor for the National Law Center for Children and Families and the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, where he led courses for prosecutors and law enforcement officers around the world on Internet crimes against children and digital evidence. He is a retired St. Paul Police sergeant.

Brian P. Short, chief executive officer of Leamington Co., a holding company with interests in transportation, community banking, agricultural production and real estate. He also serves as a legal mediator and previously served as a United States magistrate.

Colleen Striegel, director of human resources and administration for the American Refugee Committee. In that capacity, she was part of the first international team to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of refugees by aid workers in West Africa in the early 2000s.

Michael D. Thompson, M.S.W., Psy.D., a state of Minnesota licensed psychologist who has worked extensively in the area of sex offender assessment and treatment. He is the president of the Minnesota Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

(Read their full biographies.)

‘Must be done’

The creation of the task force comes amid sexual misconduct allegations in the media concerning certain priests in the archdiocese and how their cases were handled by archdiocesan officials.

The responsibilities of the task force include examining how allegations of clergy sexual misconduct have been handled and what must be done to address any gaps in the process.

“This work is not going to be easy, but it is work that must be done,” Father Whitt said at the press conference. “It must be done to restore trust in those who govern our archdiocese and confidence in the integrity of the clergy. And, most especially, it must be done to assure the safety of our children. For all this, we implore the almighty help of God.”

The task force’s first meeting took place later that day.

Short, the only task force member at the press conference, said he is evidence of the good the Catholic Church can do in the world. He attended Catholic schools from grade school through law school. His children also attended Catholic schools.

“If the Catholic Church doesn’t fix this problem, its ability to act as a force of good in the world, however anyone of us define that, is over,” Short said. “That’s why the work of this task force is paramount. That’s why I volunteered to be a member of it. And, that’s why I know every other member of this task force is here.”

Operating independently

Father Whitt will not attend the task force’s meetings unless invited by the chairperson, who is DiGiorno.

Father Whitt will receive the task force’s report and ensure it is in compliance with both civil and Church law. He will publish the final findings and recommendations as well as implement the recommendations, which the archbishop has pledged to accept.

The task force will operate independently of both the vicar for ministerial standards and the archbishop. It will have full authority and all the resources needed to complete its work, the archdiocese said in an Oct. 6 statement.

“They [task force members] are going to decide what they want to investigate within the parameters of the charge given to them,” Father Whitt said. “Whatever they recommend to me as reasonable for them to perform their task, it’s my business to see that they get it.”

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