The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul, along with the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, have been charged criminally over its handling of sexual abuses cases, the New York Times reported. The cases in question center on Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest, who pled guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing underage boys.
The attorney for Ramsey County, John Choi, said about the charges, “Today we are alleging a disturbing institutional and systemic pattern of behavior committed by the highest levels of leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over the course of decades.”
Choi is going after the archdiocese on six charges of gross misdemeanors and a civil complaint after they allegedly failed to stop the sexual abuses committed by Wehmeyer.
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said about the charges in a statement, “We deeply regret the abuse that was suffered by the victims of Curtis Wehmeyer and are grieved for all victims of sexual abuse… We will continue to cooperate with the Ramsey County attorney’s office… We all share the same goal: To provide safe environments for all children in our churches and in our communities.”
Wehmeyer, who had served as a priest at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, was removed as a priest by Pope Francis in March. The investigation into the sex abuses committed by Wehymeyer, along with the case against the archdiocese is still ongoing.
St. Paul Police Chief, Tom Smith, said about the case, “This case is not about religion. It’s about allegations of misconduct and crimes that were committed… These type of allegations are always disturbing, especially when it involves people in positions of authority and trust.”
According to investigators, the underaged boys told them that Wehmeyer showed them graphic adult images and touched their genitals. Wehmeyer is now serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to three felony counts of sexual abuse and 17 counts of possession of child pornography. He is now also awaiting trial for charges brought against him for sexually abusing a third minor in Wisconsin.
Attorney for the victims of Wehmeyer, Jeff Anderson, said about the charges, “The complaint… demonstrates and recites the problem to be a systemic one, a corporate one, by the top officials, by the Archdiocese, spanning years… It names ten officials engaged in a pattern of conduct and alleges serious violations of law about which we have been concerned and addressing for years. It’s bold. It’s intelligent. It’s necessary – and unprecedented.”
According to Choi, the archdiocese was responsible for the needs of the victims. If found guilty, the archdiocese would face a fine in the amount of thousands of dollars. The conviction though would serve as a precedent for accountability.
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