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.

Another new filing today: Toddler abused by neighbor boy; Apartment management knew he was dangerous.

abuseMy friend Erin Olson and I filed a case today on behalf of a sweet, wonderful little girl who was terribly abused by a neighbor boy at her Canby apartment.  Here’s the press release:

Portland, OR — Lawyers representing a young toddler filed suit on her behalf today against Norris & Stevens and a Canby apartment complex known as Willamette Grove apartments, alleging that the girl suffered rape and molestation at the hands of a violent and dangerous neighbor boy when management failed to warn of the risk they knew he posed.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges that the apartment complex manager had previously received multiple reports of the boy engaging in acts including threatening other young children with a knife and inappropriately peeping in the bedroom window of another young child, but had taken no action in response to the reports.

“Apartment management had ample warning that the boy posed a risk to others is in the complex, and particularly to children younger than him, and they chose to protect the boy rather than the other residents.” said Erin Olson, one of the attorneys representing the interests of the victim.

Kristian Roggendorf, another attorney representing the victim added, “Apartment complexes in Oregon have a responsibility to warn their residents about known dangers, even when those dangers are other residents.”

The suit, which names as defendants Norris and Stevens and Grand Oaks Willamette, LLC, also alleges that the apartment’s management attempted to evict the victim’s family after family members complained to management about the assault, and warned other residents with small children of the danger posed by the assailant.

This case is truly tragic all the way around.  Our client was seriously harmed, but the boy is also obviously deeply damaged.  The management’s protecting him only emboldened him to take his actions to a terrible new level, and for that, Norris & Stevens and Grand Oaks Willamette must be held to account.  It deeply saddens me that they ever allowed this boy to go so far, and yet still tried t keep it secret, even after the abuse was disclosed.

Roggendorf Law In the Oregonian

oregonian-2The last few weeks have been very busy, and I haven’t posted much.   In part, this is why:

Sex-abuse lawsuit filed against Archdiocese of Portland alleging rape by notorious priest

The Fr. Grammond cases are some of the most infuriating, even after a dozen years of doing this kind of work.  How—how—could the Archdiocese ignore multiple reports of a man sexually touching boys over the course of decades???  He obviously wasn’t ever going to get “better” and wasn’t ever going to stop. 

Chicago Catholic Archdiocese: “Child abuse and rape ‘viewed differently’ years ago”

ABC 7 ChicagoExactly how were “child abuse [and] rape” viewed “differently” by the Chicago Archdiocese years ago?


Were they not considered grave, mortal sins?  Were they not to be punished to the full extent of the law?  Were they not heinous crimes against those the Christ himself said should come to no harm, lest the offender wish he had never been born?

Seriously, exactly how did Cardinals George, Bernardin and Cody view child rape?  As an occupational hazard perhaps.  Or maybe a risk management issue. 

However they viewed these vile transgressions against the dignity and innocence of little children, it was obviously not the correct way, or the behavior would have swiftly ceased after a few high visibility punishments.  Instead, these men silenced victims, condoned rape, and shuffled perverts around the Chicago Archdiocese and the nation.  Perhaps finding some jail time for them would be helpful, you know, pour encourager les autres.

Congratulations, SNAP, for shedding light on the dark practices of the Chicago Archdiocese. 

Smith Rock, Oregon

View of Monkeyface from the top of Central Oregon