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Memo names 3 missing from 'credibly accused' priests list

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An internal church memo from 2002 names three priests with "known abuse histories" who weren't on the list of "credibly accused" priests released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis earlier this month.

The three priests are: the Rev. Tom Gillespie, the Rev. Harold Whittet, and the Rev. Ambrose Filbin. Gillespie, a Benedictine monk, was identified by St. John's Abbey on Dec. 9 as a cleric "likely to have offended against minors." Whittet and Filbin are dead.

• MPR News investigation: Archdiocese under scrutiny

The Aug. 12, 2002, memo obtained by MPR News provides further evidence that the archdiocese has not released the names of all priests it believes sexually abused children. 

Archbishop John Nienstedt has said the archdiocese will update its public list if it "learns of additional credible claims of abuse by a minor by a member of the clergy." However, Nienstedt won't say why he hasn't disclosed the names of several priests identified in the 2002 memo as known abusers.  

Archbishop Harry Flynn, 2005
Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul, Minn., answers questions on policies dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors during a news conference Friday, June 17, 2005, at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spring general meeting in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP Photo/File 2005

A spokesman for the archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The memo, written by former top church deputy Rev. Kevin McDonough to former Archbishop Harry Flynn at the height of the national clergy abuse scandal, identified parishes that McDonough believed needed to know about abusive priests. McDonough urged Flynn to disclose the information to parishioners, lest the archdiocese be accused of a "cover-up."

"I want to propose that we ought to devote the resources now to 'lancing the boil' while there is residual interest/fear/concern/anger about the issue," he wrote.

The Rev. Kevin McDonough
The Rev. Kevin McDonough served as the archbishop's deputy from 1991-2009.
Getty Images/File 2007

McDonough also expressed concern that a news organization might publish its own lists of priests accused of sexually abusing children. "Even if we do not preemptively release all of that information ourselves ('publish the list'), we are going to have to deal with its disclosure sooner or later," McDonough wrote. "I would prefer to see us in the position of having already prepared local parishes for this likelihood." 

McDonough did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

His memo lists 17 priests "with known abuse histories." They include 13 priests included on the list released by the archdiocese on Dec. 5

• Gilbert Gustafson

• Michael Stevens

• Robert Thurner

• Lee Krautkremer

• Robert Kapoun

• Robert Zasacki

• Paul Palmitessa

• Timothy McCarthy

• Thomas Adamson

• Joseph Heitzer

• Alfred Longley

• Rudolph Henrich

• Francis Reynolds

It also identifies the Rev. Eugene Corica as a priest with a "known abuse" history. However, the archdiocese recently denied that Corica sexually abused children. When it released its list of "credibly accused" priests on Dec. 5, it said Corica had been incorrectly flagged by the church years earlier as a child sexual abuser. Corica had been "accused of having sexual relationships with adult women," not children, the archdiocese said. 

The 2002 memo also includes the names of 10 priests "with disputed claims, marginal behavior, or undue attention." Seven of those priests were included on the Dec. 5 list. The remaining three include two priests that MPR News is not identifying because of a lack of information.

MPR News identified the third priest, the Rev. Harry Walsh, in a report published Thursday that cites two detailed internal documents written by Nienstedt. Walsh denied the allegations in an interview with MPR News. 

• MPR News investigation: Abuse claims kept secret allowed priest to minister and teach sex ed

The archdiocese acknowledged in a statement released late Thursday that it knew Walsh had been accused of child sexual abuse. "Minnesota law and the archdiocese's policies at the time did not obligate the archdiocese to report these dated allegations to police," the archdiocese said in the statement. "In accordance with our present policy, we will report all past and present credible claims of sexual abuse of minors to the police as our file review continues."

Photo grid of priests from archdiocese's list
The archdiocese released a list of priests "credibly accused" of abuse on Dec. 5. | Read the story and profiles of the priests
Photo illustration by Regina McCombs/MPR News

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