Court Rules That Survivors’ Public Nuisance Claims Against Diocese of New Ulm May Proceed
Order Will Help Protect Children, Expose Diocese’s Protection of Abusive Priests, and Scrutinize Archbishop Nienstedt’s Decisions Regarding Priest Information
(New Ulm) – Brown County District Court Judge Robert A. Docherty has ruled that three clergy sexual abuse survivors’ public nuisance claims against the Diocese of New Ulm can proceed. Judge Docherty’s March 27, 2015, order will help hold the Diocese of New Ulm accountable for protecting pedophile priests in the past and will help keep children safe in the future.
The Diocese of New Ulm is the only Minnesota diocese that has refused to release a full list of its priests that have been credibly accused of child sex abuse, or any documents regarding sexually abusive priests to the public.
“This order gives us the ability to uncover the dangerous practices of this diocese and make sure the community is better protected,” said Mike Finnegan, attorney for Doe 37, Doe 38 and Doe 10.
In 2014, Plaintiffs Doe 37 and Doe 38 filed suit against the Diocese of New Ulm, claiming that they were sexually abused as children by Father Michael Skoblik, a priest at St. Joseph’s Church in Silver Lake, Minn., in the late 1960s and early 1970s, while they were St. Joseph’s parishioners and altar boys. In a separate lawsuit filed in 2013, Plaintiff Doe 10 alleges that he was sexually abused as a child by Father Francis Markey, a priest at Church of St. Andrew in Granite Falls, Minn., in 1982, while he was a Church of St. Andrew parishioner. Both churches are in the Diocese of New Ulm. All three plaintiffs allege that the diocese created a public nuisance by concealing the histories of Fathers Skoblik and Markey, and other priest offenders, from the community.
In 2003-2004, then-Bishop of New Ulm John Nienstedt, current Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, compiled a list of 12 priests who had credible accusations of child sexual abuse, but refused to make the list public. Archbishop Nienstedt’s decisions surrounding that list and any clerics accused of abuse after the list was created will be scrutinized in these cases, Anderson said.