Canon lawyer charges cover-up on sex abuse

This story is starting to get more traction.  Via the AP: 

A canon lawyer alleging a widespread cover-up of clergy sex misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made her most detailed claims yet, accusing archbishops and their top staff of lying to the public and of ignoring the US bishops’ pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse.

Jennifer Haselberger, who spent five years as Archbishop John Nienstedt’s archivist and top adviser on Roman Catholic church law, also charged that the church used a chaotic system of record-keeping that helped conceal the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment.

Haselberger said that when she started examining records in 2008 of clergy under restrictions over sex misconduct with adults and children she found “nearly 20″ of the 48 men still in ministry. She said she repeatedly warned Nienstedt and his aides about the risk of these placements, but they took action only in one case. As a result of raising alarms, she said she was eventually shut out of meetings about priest misconduct. She resigned last year.

“Had there been any serious desire to implement change, it could have been done quickly and easily with the stroke of a single pen,” Haselberger wrote in the affidavit, released Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by attorney Jeff Anderson. “The archbishop’s administrative authority in his diocese is basically unlimited.”

The archdiocese has for years pledged it was following the national bishops’ policy, known as the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which lays out a series of requirements — from conducting background checks to alerting parishioners about offender priests and barring guilty clergy from parish assignments. Archbishop Harry Flynn, who led the Minneapolis archdiocese until retiring in 2008, was an architect of the 12-year-old plan.

But Haselberger said she discovered in 2008 that the archdiocese hadn’t conducted background checks on most priests since the early 1990s. When she drew attention to the lapse, she said she was told to eliminate references to the date of background checks in a form pledging a priest is suitable for ministry.

…Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said in a statement that Haselberger’s “recollections are not always shared by others within the archdiocese.” He said the archdiocese was taking steps toward “greater transparency and accountability.”

Read more. 

Also writing about this: Rod Dreher.  

The New York Times adds:

On Tuesday, the archdiocese was surprised by a 107-page affidavit from Ms. Haselberger in which she rebuts claims made by the archbishop and his deputies in depositions taken in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

…“Everything I had heard about Archbishop Nienstedt,” said Ms. Haselberger in a telephone interview, “led me to think that if there was ever a guy who was not going to put up with this kind of stuff, it would be him. Would you ever think that somebody with a reputation for being dogmatically pure would turn a blind eye to this kind of stuff? I was completely unprepared for it.”

She said in the affidavit that “every time” she tried to warn the archbishop and his deputies about abusive priests still serving in ministry “my concerns were ignored, dismissed, or the emphasis was shifted to what was best for the priest involved.”


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