Archdiocese continues to meet Ramsey County settlement requirements

| July 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis continues to be in compliance with the terms of a 2015 settlement agreement it entered into with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Ramsey County Judge Teresa Warner affirmed during a July 18 progress hearing.

“The documents … indicate that progress is being made in accordance with the settlement agreement, and progress is continuing,” she said of a regular six-month progress report filed by the archdiocese.

The report indicated that the archdiocese has been meeting safe environment requirements, including that employees and volunteers at local parishes and schools have completed the “Essential 3”: a background check, VIRTUS safe environment training and a code of conduct.

Tim O’Malley

An October 2017 external audit revealed that 92 percent of the staff and volunteers in the 23 audited local Catholic parishes and schools were in 100 percent compliance. At a December 2017 hearing, archdiocesan officials told Warner that incomplete bookkeeping was the central reason the other 8 percent were found noncompliant. At the July 18 hearing, they said their staff has been working closely with parish staff members and volunteers to help ensure complete records with the goal of 100 percent compliance. Another external audit will take place this October.

“The cooperation of clergy and schools is 100 percent,” said Joe Dixon, an attorney representing the archdiocese.

The archdiocese reported that it is working with an advisory committee that includes child sexual abuse survivors to review recommended safe environment policies and restorative justice initiatives.

The progress in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy reorganization, which is expected to be settled in a matter of months, will allow the archdiocese to move ahead with restorative justice efforts with survivors outlined in the settlement agreement, Tim O’Malley, archdiocesan director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, told Warner.

He and Ramsey County Assistant Attorney Thomas Ring noted efforts already underway, including a healing circle that took place at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis April 29 that Ring attended, along with Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Janell Rasmussen, archdiocesan deputy director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment. A similar event was held the same day at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove.

The settlement agreement required the archdiocese to recommend that the plan for reorganization include a fund to support the cost of abuse survivors’ counseling. It did recommend that fund, O’Malley reported, but survivors’ attorneys asked that counseling funds not be segregated from survivors’ settlements, as survivors can determine individually whether or not to pursue counseling. The current plan does not include the counseling fund.

Speaking with reporters following the hearing, O’Malley and Rasmussen were asked whether members of the clergy have “opted out” of completing the Essential 3 requirements. They noted that about a dozen retired or ill priests and deacons did initially, with the understanding that it meant they could no longer exercise public ministry. None did in the last “E 3” compliance cycle, Rasmussen said.

According to the settlement agreement, Ramsey County will continue to monitor the archdiocese’s safe environment efforts until February 2020. The next six-month progress hearing has yet to be scheduled, but it will take place near the end of December.

The archdiocese entered into the settlement agreement in 2015 with Ramsey County on civil charges against the archdiocese alleging it was negligent in the case of three brothers who were sexually abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul in 2010 and 2011. The settlement agreement was amended in June 2016 when Ramsey County dismissed related criminal charges.

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Category: Local News