Catholic Diocese Criminally Charged for Priest Sexual Abuse

In what looks to be the second case of its kind, criminal charges have been filed against the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect the children who were molested by a priest named Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now in prison for those crimes.

The Ramsey County attorney’s office filed criminal charges Friday against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for “failing to protect children” from an abusive priest, marking the first time that a U.S. archdiocese has been criminally charged for such offenses.

The charges stem from the archdiocese’s oversight failures regarding former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving a prison term. Wehmeyer sexually abused two boys in 2010 — at times plying them with alcohol and showing them pornography — while he was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul.

“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,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

Choi called the facts of the case “appalling.” He said his office was both filing criminal charges and taking civil action because of the archdiocese’s failure to protect the boys despite “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct by Curtis Wehmeyer.”

These are misdemeanor criminal charges, but they were filed against the archdiocese itself, not against any individuals. That means the most that can happen to the church is a $3000 fine for each charge, which doesn’t come anywhere close to even being a slap on the wrist.

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  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    So, pardon me for my ignorance of US criminal law, but can the successful prosecution of the enterprise make prosecution of individuals easier at a later date?

    I’m talking about the **success** of the prosecution in securing a conviction, mind, not merely the process of prosecution, which can obviously make things easier: knowledge that the organization chose to reshuffle and leave unsupervised person X doesn’t tell us which individual is guilty of involvement. Prosecution of the enterprise might very well shake loose information about the specific individuals involved and their level of culpability.

    Using this as an info-gathering tactic for prosecution of individuals makes sense. Getting a guilty verdict on record to assist those seeking civil claims makes sense. But what else could Choi’s office be thinking about, strategically and tactically?

    I’m not criticizing Choi. Obviously I’ve already identified reasonable motivation to proceed. I’m just curious based on Ed’s comment,

    “That means the most that can happen to the church is a $3000 fine for each charge, which doesn’t come anywhere close to even being a slap on the wrist.”

  • raven

    From “Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches”, by Carolyn Holderread Heggen, Herald Press, Scotdale, PA, 1993 p. 73:

    “A disturbing fact continues to surface in sex abuse research. The first best predictor of abuse is alcohol or drug addiction in the father.

    But the second best predictor is conservative religiosity, accompanied by parental belief in traditional male-female roles. This means that if you want to know which children are most likely to be sexually abused by their father, the second most significant clue is whether or not the parents belong to a conservative religious group with traditional role beliefs and rigid sexual attitudes.

    (Brown and Bohn, 1989; Finkelhor, 1986; Fortune, 1983;

    Goldstein et al, 1973; Van Leeuwen, 1990). (emphasis in original)

    Nothing new about this. It’s been known for decades.

    It’s not just a Catholic problem either. It happens in all the authoritarian mind control cults, Seventh Day, Mormons, JW’s, and fundies as well.

  • Trebuchet

    Highly unsatisfying. Trivial charges against the organization, none against the individuals responsible. When we have a bishop convicted of a felony and imprisoned for a long time, I be a little more happy about it.

  • Nick Gotts

    Wot, no dukeDog7???

  • Nick Gotts

    …or jonathangray????