Survivors group accuses archdiocese of ‘hiding’ 5 predator priests

— Archbishop Bernard Hebda released a response stating internal investigators will now review clergy records.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

By Kiya Edwards

Church bells rang just as the press conference began. Outside the Cathedral of St. Paul, sexual assault survivor Frank Meuers recalled his painful past and ongoing frustrations.

“My abuser is from this diocese,” Meuers said. “I have people in my support group who probably started being abused back in the ’50s. I walked up and down that sidewalk more than once holding a sign saying I’d been abused … I tried to work with two previous bishops. They refused to work with me.”

Meuers is Minnesota’s director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a volunteer position.

“It should ring a bell with adults. Never did,” he said. “The abuse, the hurt, the pain is never over.”

Fellow survivor David Clohessy was one of the group’s first leaders after it formed 35 years ago.

“I too by the way am a clergy sex abuse victim of a predator priest in Missouri,” Clohessy said. “Let me just stress, this is not our job … The Archbishop is the one who has the duty and the resources to expose all of the predators.”

They’re asking Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to add five names to this public list of clergy accused of sexual abuse. Of them, two are alive today.

As none of the priests are on the list, KARE 11 has chosen not to name them at this time.

But group members wrote all 5 names in sidewalk chalk Wednesday following their press conference. While they say the clerics all worked in the Twin Cities at some point in their careers, they can’t confirm if they abused anyone while working here. However, the survivors claim churches in other states where they worked have identified the clerics on their websites, so they want local leadership to do the same.

“Each of the 5 priests we’re focusing on today has been … declared a credibly accused child molester by his own direct supervisor,” Clohessy said.

Archbishop Hebda released the following statement in response to the allegations:

“The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has been blessed to have had a positive working relationship with the Minnesota chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). I have been grateful that their leaders have been in regular communication with Archdiocesan staff and with me over recent years and have collaborated with us to continue to create and maintain safe environments in our churches and schools. At times, they have been helpful bringing to our attention information concerning actions that have been taken by other dioceses or religious communities regarding clerics who have served in this Archdiocese. 

Per our policy and protocol, we have already begun the process of investigating the names of the individuals brought forward today. 

For example, when we were notified about the actions taken by the Diocese of Green Bay in 2022 concerning Rev. Dennis Lally, a priest who had served here before 1982 and listed today by SNAP, our team promptly investigated the situation and determined that for that individual, there was a substantiated claim of abuse. For that reason, his name was added to our list two years ago. 

As to the other five men brought to our attention by SNAP today, I have asked our experienced investigators to review the clergy records here at the Archdiocese, along with other available information, to determine whether the well-established criteria for adding the men to our clergy disclosure list have been met. If the criteria are satisfied, we will add the names, as we have done on previous occasions. 

Victims/survivors and their loved ones have expressed to me how important it is for them to have complete and accurate disclosure lists. With that in mind, the Archdiocese is committed to adding names when appropriate. 

I thank victims/survivors and their loved ones for their advocacy on behalf of those who have been hurt by abuse and ask that all people of goodwill continue to join me in prayer for them.”

– Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda

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