Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Catholic Archdiocese introduced Wednesday members of a new task force it has created to look into allegations of child porn and abuse by priests. It comes amidst a growing scandal over how the Archdiocese has handled such cases.
The focus of the controversy has been with the handling of two cases. One case involves Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving prison time for child sex abuse. The other involves Father John Shelley, who has been put on leave by the church amidst charges he had child pornography on his computer.
Brian Short is a twin cities business executive and one member of the lay six-person task force. Short says he will resign if the task force investigation is in any way obstructed.
“As soon as I perceive that it is not fully independent, as soon as I suspect as soon as any other member of the task force perceives that it is not fully independent, there will be one less member of the task force,” he said.
Archbishop John Nienstedt appointed Father Reginald Whitt, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, to establish the task force. Nienstedt himself is under fire after a former high ranking church official, Jennifer Hasselberger, accused him and other high ranking church officials of blocking the investigations into Wehmeyer and Shelley.
Whitt says he believes Nienstedt himself will cooperate with the task force.
“His own credibility and integrity are invested in the very act of appointing me and asking me to establish the task force,” Whitt said.
But David Clohessy, the head of the victims group SNAP, says he does not believe the task force will make a difference.
“Every time a bishop gets caught concealing child sex crimes, he brings in a blue ribbon panel with impressive sounding resumes,” Clohessy said.
The Task Force includes a former St. Paul police officer, several attorneys, and an expert on sex offender treatment. There are both Catholics and non-Catholics on the task force. You can read about all the task force members here.
There is also a separate criminal investigation into the child porn allegations against Father Shelley that is being handled by St. Paul police. Father Shelley through his attorney has denied any wrongdoing.
The final task force findings will be released in a report to the public.