Archdiocese: Priest Abuse Victim Later Killed Wife, Committed Suicide

StarTribune: Local Catholic church officials have released new details about a pair of abusive priests showing that one priest was accused of sexually abusing a brain-injured woman and another sexually abused a boy who did not want his community to know what happened.

That victim later killed himself and his wife in a murder-suicide, the church said.

The disclosures are part of a lawsuit in Ramsey County Court that is also compelling Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Vicar General Kevin McDonough to testify under oath about a wide range of cases over decades where the archdiocese learned of abuses by priests and reinstalled them into ministry without warning parishioners.

“This release is the first of several that will happen in the coming weeks,’’ the archdiocese said in a statement Monday night.

The new details center on incidents that happened decades ago involving the Rev. Paul Palmitessa and the Rev. Kenneth LaVan. The archdiocese also released documents pertaining to previously reported abuse by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer and the Rev. John Michael Stevens.

In August 1990, an adult male reported to the archdiocese that Palmitessa had sexually abused him in 1982, when he was a boy. The statement said the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office investigated the abuse when it occurred, but that the victim chose not to pursue charges or tell the archdiocese “because he did not want his community to know about the abuse.’’

“Tragically, in May 1999 the victim of Palmitessa’s abuse killed his wife and committed suicide,’’ the statement said.

Church officials said Palmitessa moved to the Diocese of San Diego two years before any allegations came to light. He was still active in limited ministry in the San Diego area late last year when Nienstedt’s administration included Palmitessa on a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. LaVan also was on that list. The Archdiocese of St. Paul Minneapolis said in its statement that it “communicated the allegations’’ against Palmitessa to the Diocese of San Diego as soon it knew of them.

“The archdiocese has received reports that Palmitessa may have abused others,’’ the statement said.

LeVan’s first alleged abuses were against two girls between 1958 and 1970, the statement said. The church settled lawsuits brought by the two victims in 1989 and 1992. The priest was required to “undergo treatment,’’ the statement said, and was returned to parish ministry at St. Joseph in Lino Lakes “with monitoring.’’ He later provided assistance at St. Olaf church in Minneapolis.

LeVan, who stopped serving as a priest last December, also has been accused of sexually abusing a woman who suffered from “mental illness and a brain injury,’’ the archdiocese said. She was one of multiple women who leveled accusations of abusive sexual behavior against the priest.

“The archdiocese deeply regrets the egregious acts of these men and the unimaginable harm suffered by victims, their families and their communities,’’ the statement said.