Millstones for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis?

archdiocese-mspAs a Catholic, I try to give most current Church leaders the benefit of the doubt that they’ve learned their lesson about secrecy and covering up the abuse of children by priests.  I sometimes counsel my clients that the Church has been trying to do the right thing over the last few years.

Apparently, I’m being rather naive—at least as it pertains to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Former official: Archdiocese didn’t report priest’s pornography

The story is damning, in every sense of the word. 

When the archdiocese learned of the pornography on the computer in 2004, it asked [Rev. Jonathan] Shelley to turn over all of his remaining computers for forensic analysis.

Shelley responded by destroying one of the computers with a hammer, Haselberger said.

No, that’s not suspicious in the least. 

And then they sent Father Shelley to “treatment” to “St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a treatment center that specializes in clergy psychological and sexual issues, for evaluation. When Shelley returned, he was placed back in ministry.”  And it was never reported to the police until one of the Archdiocese’s own lawyers got fed up with the lack of a response.  

The potentially criminal part comes from the materials turned over by the Archdiocese to the police:

Police asked church officials to turn over the evidence on March 5 of this year during a visit to the archdiocese’s main offices in St. Paul. The response of Andrew Eisenzimmer, the now-retired archdiocesan legal counsel and chancellor for civil affairs, to that request caught investigator Gillet by surprise.

“Eisenzimmer was visibly upset” and asked for the name of the priest involved, Gillet wrote in his report. “Eisenzimmer went so far as to say that he needed to know which property we were talking about. We were surprised with this, as it suggested to us the possibility that there might be more than one case of pornographic materials the church was dealing with.”

Gillet agreed to leave the archdiocese offices without the file containing the pornography and documents. He wrote in his report that he would call Eisenzimmer back with the priest’s name, then collect the evidence.

But church officials did not provide Gillet with anything until two days later when Tom Wieser, a St. Paul lawyer, called to say the sergeant could collect three computer disks from his office.

Read the entire article.  The failure to turn over evidence of a crime is itself a crime.  Moreover, how many other priests have been caught with pictures of child abuse on their personal computers?  Are these files on the Archdiocese’s servers?  What the Holy Hell, pun intended, is going on in Minneapolis???

The Savior of Mankind, our Lord Jesus Christ, was perfectly forgiving and loving.  Yet he was unequivocal about how to treat child abusers: “But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone [about 500 pounds] were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

The fact that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis closed ranks and possibly destroyed evidence to protect itself and a potential child abuser is horrendous.  But if they failed to report child abuse, as their own former lawyer (not some “evil” plaintiff’s lawyer) alleges, then the hierarchy has entered into criminal territory.  And if indeed Shelley had a problem with viewing pictures of children being abused (as the evidence seems to indicate), and they put Shelley back in ministry after determining he was sick enough to go to St. Luke Institute for that problem, then they are getting perilously close to that millstone.  Lake Superior—just up the road a bit—is pretty deep, after all.

God have mercy on their souls.