ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A Ramsey County Judge has ordered the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to reveal the names of 33 members of the clergy who allegedly abused children.
Monday’s court order is a major victory for those challenging the Catholic Church to come clean on the scandal that has plagued the Archdiocese and haunted abuse survivors.
Judge John Van De North is giving the church until Dec. 17 to reveal the names and locations of the 33 accused priests. After Monday’s hearing, lawyers for the Archdiocese say the names will likely be released later this week.
Lawyers and advocates for the abused have been seeking this disclosure for nearly 30 years. St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson says it will protect children from further harm and allow those who’ve been abused to come forward.
In November, Archbishop John Nienstedt promised to release the names of some of the clergy with substantiated abuse claims. But Judge Van De North decided to go a bit further, ordering full disclosure of the 33 names in the Archdiocese along with another 13 from the Diocese of Winona. Both must be revealed by December 17th.
“The era of secrecy around the identities of those offenders is now drawing to and nearing an end,” attorney Jeff Anderson said.
He has litigated dozens of claims on behalf of abuse victims. Monday’s decision by Judge Van De North reverses a 2009 ruling that kept names of known abusers from a list compiled by the church in 2004 private.
The judge also ordered the Archdiocese to reveal any priests who have been credibly accused since then.
Beyond the 33 names and ages, it will include when they were ordained, where they served and where they are now.
On Monday evening, the Archdiocese released a statement regarding Ramsey County’s decision, saying they are “grateful for the approval of Ramsey County court to release information relating to priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors in our archdiocese.”
Anderson says the real winners are the abuse survivors, many of whom have been reluctant to come forward.
“Survivors who suffered alone in silence, thinking they are the only ones abused now know they may not be alone,” Anderson said.
Abuse survivor Bob Schwiderski says it’s a start to full disclosure.
“The 2004 list from all of the Diocese in Minnesota tallies 107 credibly accused ordained priests. We’ve got 61 names to go,” Schwiderski said.
The Archdiocese plans to release the list later this week, ahead of the Dec. 17 deadline. Attorneys for the church wouldn’t discuss the ruling but deferred instead to an expected written statement from the Archdiocese.
In addition, the church will have until January 6th to add to the list the names of clergy who have been credibly accused after 2004.
The four other Diocese in Duluth, St. Cloud, Crookston and New Ulm are also being urged to release lists of the credibly accused. Attorney Anderson expects Judge Van De North’s ruling to go a long way to support his motions for full disclosure throughout the state.