Possible Delay in Release of Accused Priests’ Names

Updated: 11/13/2013 7:17 AM KSTP.com By: Beth McDonough

Archbishop John Nienstedt
Archbishop John Nienstedt

The St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese is clarifying its plan to release the names of suspected predator priests. This comes 24 hours after promising an inventory.  

Archbishop John Nienstedt says a Ramsey County Court order could hold up the release. It's a secret list of names, and it's been private for years.

"Bishop Accountability" is a watchdog agency based in Massachusetts. It tracks credible claims of sexual misconduct against priests nationwide.

"There is a public safety concern because if the identities of a person suspected of abusing children are not known, communities can't protect themselves," according to president of Bishop Accountability, Terence McKiernan.  

The agency's website has photos of suspected clergy. A closer look of the six dioceses in Minnesota shows there are three allegations of clergy sexual misconduct in Crookston, 37 in St. Cloud, seven in Duluth, six in New Ulm, 34 in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and four in Winona.

According to Bishop Accountability, 25 of the nation's 178 dioceses have shared lists, mainly because legal settlements required it.  

Up until now, the church has been reluctant to release an inventory, claiming it would be unfair to priests wrongly accused and to potential victims.

An Archdiocese spokesman tells KSTP several things have to happen for the list to be unsealed. The court has to OK it, and an outside firm must review the priest files. The Archdiocese is working to hire an outside firm.

The President of Bishop Accountability believes then, there will be transparency.

"It's necessary for the credibility of the church itself which has been terribly damaged by all this," said McKiernan.

The Archdiocese says it'll choose an outside firm by month's end to review the files. Background checks on all active clergy are now complete, according to the Archdiocese.

There is no set date for the court to lift the protective order.