ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis now faces criminal charges over how it handled an abusive priest.
The Ramsey County Attorney today said top church leaders failed to protect children from the Reverend Curtis Wehmeyer. He’s in prison for molesting two brothers in Minnesota and facing charges of sexually abusing a third boy in Wisconsin.
Over the last several months they’ve interviewed more than 50 witnesses specifically looking at who knew what when with complaints against Curtis Wehmeyer. Although Wehmeyer committed the crimes, prosecutors say the top church is also criminally responsible.
“Facts can’t be ignore, they can’t be dismissed, and are frankly appalling,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.
A 43 page criminal complaint outlines Wehmeyer’s 11 years with the Catholic Church — a tenure filled with complaints of inappropriate behavior with young boys and men but no effort to stop him.
“When confronted with disturbing information about Curtis Wehmeyer, church officials time and time again turned a blind eye,” Choi said.
Outlined in the paperwork are Archbishops and Vicar Generals — top leaders who oversaw Wehmeyers case. In the complaint, witnesses both outside and in the church voiced their concerns. One priest is quoted as saying, “Father Curt Wehmeyer has many skeletons in his closet” after seeing Wehmeyer sharing a bed with boy on a camping trip.
“As time progressed, the information on Wehmeyer became more alarming and more specific,” Choi said.
Starting in 2005, the church made an effort to address the problem, implementing a monitoring program and training. According to the criminal complaint, Wehmeyer wasn’t held accountable and allowed to pass through the program.
Meanwhile, the abuse against children continued.
“What was purported to be a best practice in monitoring and supervising wayward priests was, in reality, a sham,” Choi said.
The Ramsey County Attorney also filed a civil petition against the Archdiocese. There’s no monetary value — instead, they’re hoping to change a pattern of behavior and address any future problems.
In a statement, the Archdiocese addressed the charges and the allegations against the church.
“We deeply regret the abuse suffered at the hands of Wehmeyer, and all victims of sexual abuse,” the statement said. “We will continue to cooperate with all authorities.”
They went on to say that they respect the criminal and civil process, and share the goal of protecting children.
Because the charges are filed on the church as an organization and not upon any individual, any punishment would amount to fines against the Archdiocese.