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Archdiocese says Twin Cities priests abused 69 children
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The St. Paul Cathedral, the seat of authority for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis)
An audit has found that 33 priests in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have been accused of sexual abuse. The claims span 50 years, and involve 69 credible allegations by people who say they were abused as minors in the years before 1988. The audit also says the church is complying with anti-sexual abuse standards adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last year. In some cases, auditors say the churches efforts to help victims of abuse have gone above and beyond the bishops' guidelines. However, some say the audit under-reports the number of people who've been abused by priests.

St. Paul, Minn. — The report issued by the independent auditors found that out of more than 3,000 priests who have served in the archdiocese over the last 50 years, about 1 percent, or 33 priests, were found to have credible allegations of abuse brought against them.

"I think this result shows that clergy are not more likely to offend," says the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese. "Of course, that's not sufficient. We want our clergy to be less likely to offend. In fact, we want our clergy not to offend."

The report tallies allegations made before 1988. Since 1988, abuse charges have been handled by law enforcement authorities. The church reported it has spent $6.7 million on counseling for abusers and their victims, as well as legal costs.

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Image Attorney Jeff Anderson

McDonough says the auditors spent five days interviewing church staff, clergy abuse victims and some of the priests accused of abuse. He says auditors commended the archdiocese for creating anti-abuse programs and initiatives, some of which are nearly 20 years old.

"There are three things that victims want: Number 1, to be heard respectfully; Number 2, to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else; and Number 3, some assistance in their journey of healing -- usually including a renewed feeling of spirituality," says McDonough.

But some say there are too many abuse victims who don't get that treatment from the archdiocese.

Attorney Jeff Anderson says he has represented people who have sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis because they felt they weren't taken seriously by church officials. Anderson, who says he's sued half the Catholic dioceses in the country, says compared to the others, the biggest problem here is not necessarily the number of abuse allegations made.

This result shows that clergy are not more likely to offend. Of course, that's not sufficient. We want our clergy to be less likely to offend. In fact, we want our clergy not to offend.
- Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese

"They rank on the lower end in terms of their ability to deal with survivors in a forthright and candid manner. And frankly, have failed on that count," says Anderson.

Ted Kramer says the archdiocese didn't handle his complaints in a forthright manner, and now he's suing them. Kramer says he suffered abuse at the hands of a clergyman when he was 10 years old. He says he made a formal complaint to archdiocesan officials when he was 15.

"And then to find out, another 15 or 20 years after the fact, that they come back to the parish and then disclose all the known perpetrators -- and mine is not on the list. I would say that would make me pretty skeptical of their reporting practices," says Kramer.

Kramer is a member of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He says there are probably many more people with complaints against priests than are represented in the audit. He says the shame, guilt and fear can keep some people from dealing with their abuse for many years.

"I've met many people that are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, even 70s, that will come privately and talk about it. But they're not ready to talk about it until 30, 40-plus years after the fact," Kramer says.

Rev. McDonough acknowledges that more than likely there are people out there who haven't come forward with other abuse allegations. However, he doesn't think the audit largely misrepresents the number of complaints against priests.

"As you know, our church has been under enormous scrutiny for the last dozen years. So I think we have fewer unreported crimes than do other institutions. Nonetheless, I'd be almost certain there are still people out there," McDonough says. The audit of the archdiocese is part of a national effort by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to collect data of clergy abuse cases over the last 50 years. The results of the nationwide audit are scheduled to be released next month.

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