The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has forwarded information about two parish priests to law enforcement. The two priests in question are taking leaves from active ministry.
An outside firm found that the Rev. Joseph Gallatin and the Rev. Mark Wehmann were involved in incidents of "inappropriate conduct" with minors. The archdiocese didn't say how the firm reached its decision. No information about the allegations has been released.
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The archdiocese said it reported the information to police recently. An official with the archdiocese described the acts by both men as boundary violations that "do not constitute criminal activity or sexual abuse" but didn't provide additional information.
“It could have been anything, but the fact that it had not been brought to our attention is horrifying.”parishioner Deb Mack of Fridley
Officials also didn't say why no one removed the men from ministry sooner. Church leaders have claimed for years to have zero tolerance for any sexual abuse of minors. Any priest with a credible allegation of child sexual abuse is supposed to be removed from ministry right away.
MPR News could not reach Wehmann for comment at his parish but the statement from the archdiocese said an independent review of Wehmann's file found several incidents of inappropriate conduct with minors involving boundary violations. The statement did not define what amounts to boundary violations.
The archdiocese said it reported some of Wehmann's alleged acts to police but that no criminal charges were filed. The archdiocese didn't say when it made the initial report. The archdiocese revealed it reported more information about Wehmann to police recently.
"It could have been anything, but the fact that it had not been brought to our attention is horrifying," said parishioner Deb Mack, of Fridley, about Wehmann. She said she has attended St. Boniface her entire life and she's upset church leaders didn't inform the parish about the allegations against Wehmann when he started serving there in July.
"Who do you trust?" Mack said.
Wehmann informed parishioners at weekend mass about his decision to take a leave of absence, according to Mack. She said her 13-year-old son is an altar boy and was scheduled to be by Wehmann's side on Sunday, but he declined to perform his duties on Sunday in light of the allegations.
"It bothers me to think that something could have happened and I put my child at risk." Mack added, "I'm horrified."
In a separate statement, the archdiocese said there is one allegation of inappropriate conduct with a minor against the Rev. Joseph Gallatin that occurred "many years ago." The statement also said the outside firm concluded no crime occurred but the archdiocese decided to report it the police anyway. The archdiocese wouldn't say how the firm decided it wasn't a crime. Gallatin did not return a phone call for comment.
MPR News has reviewed a 2002 internal church document that said Gallatin had been accused of inappropriate interactions with a minor. The memo written by top church deputy Kevin McDonough said Gallatin was the subject of "disputed claims, marginal behavior, or undue attention." Gallatin has served at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota since 2008.
Church leaders have already disclosed the names of thirty priests they believe have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Since that disclosure in early December, MPR News has found that internal documents show that at least four other priests had credible accusations but were left off the list.
A spokesman for the St. Paul police could not be immediately reached to confirm whether the archdiocese reported the information to them. Police are already investigating allegations against several priests in the archdiocese, including Archbishop Nienstedt. The archbishop temporarily stepped away from public ministry earlier this month after the archdiocese released a statement saying it received a complaint saying Nienstedt allegedly touched a boy on the buttocks during a group confirmation photo in 2009. Nienstedt calls the allegation "entirely false."