Archdiocese, state in ongoing talks on criminal and civil charges

| November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota will continue meeting outside of court to discuss criminal and civil charges the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office filed against the archdiocese, attorneys for both parties said in an initial hearing Oct. 29 in Ramsey County Court.

Judge Teresa Warner said the archdiocese and state were keeping her apprised of their conversations. She scheduled the next hearing for 9 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Ramsey County Courthouse in St. Paul.

In June, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged the archdiocese with six gross misdemeanors of failing to protect three victims of now laicized priest Curtis Wehmeyer, and contributing to the victims’ delinquency, asserting Wehmeyer provided them drugs and alcohol. The county also filed a civil petition against the archdiocese alleging it failed to protect children and seeking a legal remedy to prevent future victimization.

Although the criminal charges and civil petition are separate cases, attorneys for the archdiocese and the state agreed to address them jointly at the November court appearance. Representing the archdiocese is Joe Dixon, an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron and a former federal prosecutor.

“I am grateful for the opportunities that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has to continue working with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office,” Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in an Oct. 29 statement. “Our goal remains the same: To make sure children are safe in our communities, schools and parishes.”

Archbishop Hebda has served as the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator since the June resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi noted the resignations in an Oct. 29 statement, adding “under its interim leadership, [the archdiocese] has begun to demonstrate a spirit of reform.”

“As the criminal and civil cases progress toward resolution in the courts, we continue to engage the archdiocese and insist upon meaningful corrective actions and systemic change,” Choi said.

As The Catholic Spirit previously reported, Wehmeyer, a former pastor of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County in November 2012 to sexually abusing two minors and possessing child pornography, and was convicted in February 2013. In August, Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in a Chippewa County, Wisconsin, County Circuit Court to sexual assault of a third victim. The abuse reportedly occurred from 2008-2011.

The archdiocese reported allegations of child sexual abuse against Wehmeyer to the St. Paul Police Department and removed him from ministry in June 2012. He was dismissed from the priesthood in 2015 and remains incarcerated.

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Category: Local News