An amazing story out of St. Paul, Minnesota: the Archdiocese of St. Paul is being criminally prosecuted for failing to protect boys from Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer in 2010. Fr. Wehmeyer had a trailer on the church grounds he used to ply the kids with drugs and alcohol, and abuse them. He was known to have been unstable and inappropriate throughout his 15+ years of ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul.
The lawsuit is an indictment of the Archdiocese itself , not just individual prelates, and so is also an indictment of the Church’s actions over the last 60 plus years:
The archdiocese’s failure to protect these children is part of an institutional pattern of allowing unsuitable priests to continue working in the church, and have access to children, the complaint says. In an extremely rare move, the complaint does not accuse a specific church leader, but rather the archdiocese corporation as a whole.
The pattern of ignoring warning signs about Wehmeyer was decades-long and blatant:
When Wehmeyer was admitted to the seminary in 1997, “seminary officials were aware Wehmeyer had a history of abusing alcohol and marijuana, experimented with other drugs, was promiscuous with men and women, was on medication for low-level depression and was in therapy,” the 44-page complaint says.
In 2004, Wehmeyer approached two younger-looking men at a Barnes and Noble in Roseville, seeking to have sex. He was evaluated at a treatment center for troubled priests, and was later put on an archdiocese monitoring program.
But the archdiocese failed to enforce its own restrictions for Wehmeyer, Choi said. He cited a 2010 incident when a priest reported to Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché that on a camping trip Wehmeyer had slept in the same bed with one of the victims.
The criminal charges were driven by the recent nature of the abuse. Numerous cases have been filed since the passage of the Minnesota Child Victim Act in 2012. The Child Victims Act allows sexual assault civil lawsuits to be filed even if they’re beyond the statute of limitations for three years after its passage. “David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, credited the legislation for Friday’s civil lawsuit.”
Unfortunately, ignoring warnings and the cover-up of misconduct was a hallmark of the mentality prevalent in the Church as a whole, including the Archdiocese of Portland. But once a criminal statute of limitations has run, a person or organization cannot be charged criminally under the Ex Post Facto clause of the Constitution.
The Archdiocese of Portland’s most recent known abuse scandal happened in Woodburn, Oregon in 2012, where Fr. Angel Perez photographed and molested a boy who had been spending the night in the rectory in violation of Archdiocese policies. Perhaps the Clackamas County DA can look into the Archdiocese of Portland’s conduct there and see if it warrants charges.