Last month the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona took an undeniably positive first step toward transparency when they released their lists of accused priests. This was the first public disclosure of the two lists, which together name 46 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors, since these lists were compiled in 2004. Following suit were St. John’s Abbey, the Diocese of Duluth, and the Diocese of St. Cloud, which each released their list of accused priests in the last month.
While the need for transparency has been stressed by leaders from dioceses statewide, these lists were not disclosed without a fight.
Each of the lists compiled by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Diocese of Winona, St. John’s, the Diocese of Duluth, and most recently, the Diocese of St. Cloud, were published only after a courageous survivor (or multiple survivors) sued the diocese where they were abused and argued for their release.
In the case of the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona, their lists were released only after a Ramsey County Judge ordered them to be. St. John’s, Duluth, and St. Cloud released their lists only when faced with identical claims and potential motions.
The Diocese of Crookston and the Diocese of New Ulm are still choosing to keep their lists a secret. Today we were in court arguing on behalf of three survivors of sexual abuse by David Roney that the Diocese of New Ulm should publish the names of 12 priests who were accused of molesting minors. In October we argued a similar motion on behalf of a survivor abused by James Porter in the Diocese of Crookston. The results of the argument are still pending but the Diocese has chosen not to release its list willingly.
Sure, four of the six Catholic dioceses in Minnesota along with St. John’s have now released their lists of priests accused of abuse of minors. This is a victory for so many survivors with whom we work and we recognize and appreciate this step in the right direction. However, considering the circumstances under which these names were exposed we still have to ask: will the dioceses ever be models of transparency?