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Paynesville Press - May 22, 2002

Diocese of St. Cloud conducting listening sessions

By Michael Jacobson

The Diocese of St. Cloud is conducting four "listening sessions" concerning clergy sexual misconduct and how the Catholic church deals with it.

The first session was held in Wadena on Tuesday, May 21. Upcoming sessions will be held, starting at 7 p.m., at:

*On Thursday, May 23, at St. Mary's School Gym in Alexandria at 421 Hawthorne Street;

*On Friday, May 31, at the St. Augustine Parish cafeteria in St. Cloud, located on the corner of Wilson Avenue and First Street SE;

*On Friday, June 7, at St. Edward Parish in Princeton, at 804 South 7th Avenue.

"We want to extend an open invitation to whoever wants to come," said Bishop John F. Kinney, who senses that people need to talk about the issue in the open.

Bringing the issue to the table in an open forum is an essential step to effect justice, reconciliation, and healing for all affected by the scandal, he added.

The meetings will include a prayer service, small and large group sharing, an opportunity to address Bishop Kinney, and closing prayers and blessing.

Bishop Kinney will be present at all four sessions. The diocese will also have trained victim advocates on hand at each one. People who want to share names of victims of abusers will have an opportunity to do so confidentially with an advocate after the listening session.

Victim advocates are: Dolores Saurer (218-736-3592); Karen Becker (320-650-1656); Father Timothy Baltes (320-251-4831); Maxine Barnett (320-253-6900); Colleen Donlin (320-252-3594); Father Patrick Riley (320-650-1660); Nancy Fandel (320-685-7507); Tom Klecker (320-253-2866); and Father Marvin Enneking (320-251-2340).

The listening sessions will be closed to the media, though Bishop Kinney will be available for questions after each one.

The diocese has released these answers to the most frequently asked questions:

1) Does the St. Cloud Diocese have a sexual misconduct policy?
Yes. The diocese has had a policy in place since 1991 to provide information and guidelines for dealing with instances of sexual misconduct. Persons who offer services in the name of the church -- clergy, religious and lay -- are required to comply fully with the policy.

The policy requires compliance with local and state reporting laws, immediate investigation of reported incidents by church officials, suspension from employment or ministerial duties during any investigation, and the offering of medical, psychological, or spiritual assistance to victims when appropriate.

It requires a diagnostic evaluation and treatment for clergy offenders, as well as continuing education for church personnel that is focused on recognizing and preventing sexual misconduct.

Copies of the policy are available from the Diocese of St. Cloud chancery, 320-251-2340, or the diocesan Office of Communications, 320-251-0558. The policy is also available online at the diocese's home page,

2) Is the diocese reviewing or revising the policy?
Yes, Bishop John Kinney has asked Father Marvin Enneking, vicar general of the diocese, to lead a committee to revise the policy. Since the current policy was adopted in 1991, the bishop said, "the church has learned much more about how to strengthen diocesan policies," and he "wants those changes incorporated into the Diocese of St. Cloud's policy."

3) Does the policy include an independent review committee to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct?
No, not at this time. However, the diocese is considering forming one as it reviews and revises its current policy.

4) Does Bishop Kinney support a "zero-tolerance" policy for clergy sexual abuse?
He has publicly stated that he has "no tolerance" for sexual misconduct of any kind. Bishop Kinney said he will immediately place on administrative leave any person representing the diocese - clergy, religious, or lay - who is accused of such misconduct, pending the results of church and/or civil investigations.

5) What happens to a priest, deacon, or employee of the diocese who is accused of sexual abuse? What happens if the person is found guilty?
Bishop Kinney said he would immediately place the accused person on administrative leave, initiate a church investigation, and comply fully with local and state reporting requirements, which may mean turning over the matter to civil authorities.

If the person is found guilty, Bishop Kinney said he would permanently remove the person from parish ministry or any ministry involving minors. Depending on the final recommendations of a treatment facility, he said a priest or deacon might be returned to a non-parish, limited, supervised ministry that does not involve any contact with minors or people at-risk.

6) Is the diocese currently investigating any sexual abuse allegations against clergy of the diocese?
The diocese is reviewing all allegations of abuse, past and present, and is reviewing all priest and deacon files, past and present. The diocese will always respect victim-requested confidentiality, unless a crime has been committed.

7) Will the diocese compile and make public the number and/or names of clergy members who have been accused of abuse in the past?
The diocese is compiling the data for its own information and use.

8) Will the diocese open all current and past priest personnel records to law enforcement authorities?
The diocese will comply with all local and state reporting requirements, and provide access to individual records as requested by law enforcement authorities.

9) Has the diocese paid out monetary settlements involving cases of alleged or proven sexual misconduct?
Yes, but the diocese will not release the details of such information. Much of this information is a matter of public record; in other cases, confidentiality has been requested by an insurance carrier or victim.

The diocese's primary concern is for the victim, and its policy provides for the offering of medical, psychological, or spiritual assistance to victims when appropriate.

10) What are seminaries and the church doing to prevent abusers from becoming priests, and priests from becoming abusers?
The Diocese of St. Cloud requires seminary applicants to undergo extensive psychological testing and a criminal background check. While studying to become a priest, seminarians participate in ongoing spiritual direction, classes, workshops, retreats, and evaluations that address human sexuality, chastity, celibacy, and personal boundary issues.

Once they become priests, they continue to receive such direction and evaluation through annual clergy retreats and periodic workshops.

11) How can a victim bring forward an accusation of sexual misconduct?
Victims are urged to contact a "victim advocate" who is part of the advocate program established by the St. Cloud Diocese. Victims may also contact Father Marvin Enneking, vicar general of the diocese. Confidentiality is assured.

Victims may also contact their local law enforcement authorities or other civil authorities.

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