Minnesota Catholic Church Charged in Child Sex Abuse Case

Cathedral_of_Saint_Paul
The Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, seat of the Archdiocese of St.Paul-Minneapolis. Wikimedia Commons

Another sex abuse scandal looks ready to rock the Catholic church in the U.S.

Minnesota prosecutors are charging that the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis ignored warnings about a priest who was later convicted of sexually abusing two boys in his care.

During a press conference Friday, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said church officials, including Bishop Lee Piché, failed to act when warned about Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest the officials knew to have engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior. In 2011, Rev. Kevin McDonough, the second most powerful member of the Archdiocese, sent a memo to the head of the program that monitored potentially risky priests in which he acknowledged he knew Wehmeyer had approached young men at a bookstore for sex, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

"Facts were ignored, minimized, were not shared with other individuals that needed to know," Choi said. He said police and prosecutors were falsely led to believe that the church had a mechanism in place for monitoring and punishing abusive priests.

In 2013, Wehmeyer was convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old boy and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was defrocked in 2015.

Choi said the prosecutor's office does not have enough evidence to charge any church official individually. The Archdiocese is being charged as a corporation, which means the harshest penalty possible is a fine, not jail time. The charges include gross misdemeanors related to the mishandling of reported sexual abuse.