As an advocacy group blasted the church’s handling of the allegations, an outreach effort was contemplated.
By HER?N M?RQUEZ ESTRADA, Star Tribune
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, responding to criticism from a sex abuse survivors group, said Friday it will consider running public service radio ads seeking victims of a priest who fled the country after allegedly molesting a 4-year-old girl.
“That’s not a bad idea,” said archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath. “Other [dioceses] run those kinds of ads. We could certainly do that.”
The archdiocese was sued this week along with the Rev. Francisco (Fredy) Montero, an Ecuadorean priest who was working in the Twin Cities for five years as part of an exchange program.
Montero left for Ecuador in July 2007 while under investigation for criminal sexual conduct involving the girl, the daughter of a parishioner the priest was counseling.
The lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court on Wednesday alleges that the archdiocese helped the priest leave the country, including having a high-ranking church official pick up some of Montero’s possessions for him from the Minneapolis apartment he shared with the girl’s mother.
The archdiocese on Friday continued to deny it helped Montero flee. It also noted that he had not been charged with anything and that his diocese in Ecuador had recalled him.
“We had no grounds to hold him at all,” McGrath said.
Those assertions did little to stop the criticism leveled by officials with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
On Friday, the group held two news conferences, including one in front of the archdiocese headquarters in St. Paul, to blast the archdiocese for a statement it issued on the lawsuit in which it mentioned that the priest and the mother were having an affair.
SNAP officials said disclosing such personal information was immoral and meant to intimidate or scare off witnesses or other victims in the case.
“This family has suffered enough,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s director of outreach. “It’s wrong and hurtful in any way to deflect blame from the pedophile priest onto any of them.”
Dorris also said that the term “affair” is inappropriate in describing what went on between the mother and the priest, because the priest had taken advantage of the mother when she was vulnerable. She said Montero abused his power and violated state law.
McGrath took exception to the assertion that the archdiocese was attempting to intimidate or scare off anyone.
“We don’t intimidate anyone,” he said, noting that the archdiocese seeks abuse victims on its website and through its newspaper.
McGrath said the information about the relationship between the priest and mother was contained in the lawsuit.
In fact, the lawsuit does not mention or allude to an improper or sexual relationship between the mother and the priest. Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the girl, said earlier that the mother was seeking counseling from the priest.