MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Monday named a former head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as its point man for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy.
Timothy O’Malley spent over 30 years in law enforcement, mostly at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which he led as superintendent from 2006-2010. He started out as a patrol officer in Rochester, was an FBI agent, and has led SWAT teams. He currently is the state’s deputy chief administrative law judge.
O’Malley begins work Sept. 15 as the archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment, a position proposed by a church-commissioned task force last April. The panel found “serious shortcomings” in how the archdiocese had been handling the sexual abuse crisis and recommended that the archdiocese put a lay person in charge of dealing with misconduct allegations and preventing future abuse.
Archbishop John Nienstedt has been under fire for allegedly mishandling clerical misconduct cases since last year, when his top adviser on church law resigned in protest and went public. He has rejected calls to resign.
In an interview, O’Malley said had a “very blunt conversation” when he met one-on-one with Nienstedt. He declined to go into much detail about their discussions, but said he asked for the meeting after he was offered the job, and that he got to see the archbishop the next day.
“He’s made it clear that his expectation is I will be very candid and frank to him in my recommendations,” he said. “I’m a direct report to him for a reason.”
O’Malley said he’s been troubled and disappointed by the church’s response to the crisis, but that he believes the archdiocese has made good progress over the past year toward putting its house in order.
He grew up in an active Catholic family, served as an altar boy and attended a Catholic college, St. Mary’s in Winona. But he said he’s not very active in the church these days. He said he attends Mass three or four times a year, mostly when he’s visiting his mother.
O’Malley said one of the main things he brings to his new job an appreciation of people whose lives have been turned upside down by serious crimes. While he said he’ll work to prevent clerical sexual abuse from happening, he also said he’ll be aggressive at getting law enforcement involved in future cases from the start. He said he can’t change the past, but he can do his best to make sure that victims’ needs are met, that justice is served and that people are held accountable.
He said he believes he’ll have sufficient access to the archbishop and the authority to “to close the door and challenge the status quo” to get the job done.
“The archbishop looked me right in the eye and made it clear I’m not serving him or the archdiocese well if I’m not offering my best thinking,” he said.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a statement calling on O’Malley to put “the safety of kids before the reputation of the church and predators. … We hope O’Malley sticks to what he says and exposes predators and those who cover it up, reports abuse to police, and is open and transparent about child sexual abuse. Only then will change begin to happen and children will really be safe.”