Police departments: Archdiocese hasn't delivered priest files, yet

Chancery Offices in St. Paul
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis Chancery Offices in St. Paul, Minn.
Amanda Snyder / MPR News

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday that it has contacted nearly 50 law enforcement agencies in the past two weeks to provide files on priests accused of child sexual abuse. However, none of 12 metro law enforcement agencies contacted by MPR News confirmed that the archdiocese had offered files to review.

The archdiocese made the claim in a statement emailed to MPR News on Thursday morning. It said, "Beginning, last week, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis informed nearly 50 law enforcement agencies that we were going to provide several priest files to Jeff Anderson and we offered the police the opportunity to review those files."

The archdiocese wouldn't provide a list of the 50 agencies. MPR News contacted 18 law enforcement agencies in the Twin Cities metro area and 12 responded. Eleven officials said they had no record of any contacts with the archdiocese in the past two weeks.

New Prague Police Chief Mark Vosejpka was the only official who said he received a call. He said an attorney from a private firm called him on behalf of the archdiocese on Monday. The attorney said the archdiocese planned to release information to the public within the next month about priests it believes have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, Vosejpka said.

"I said, 'Well do you want to email me the information?' And he said, 'No, just call me back later this month,'" Vosejpka said.

Vosejpka said the lawyer wouldn't say why he called him or what specific information would be released. "It was very odd," he said.

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A contentious issue

The archdiocese's cooperation with law enforcement officials has been a contentious issue in recent months following an MPR News investigation that found top church officials had covered up abuse by clergy for decades.

St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith criticized the archdiocese in December for not assisting police in their investigations of clergy sexual abuse. Victims of abuse and their attorneys have called for police to force the archdiocese to turn over thousands of files on priests accused of sexually abusing children. However, Smith and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi have said they do not have enough evidence to obtain search warrants.

Explore the full investigation Clergy abuse, cover-up and crisis in the Twin Cities Catholic church

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso said Thursday that church leaders will hand over any files that police need to conduct their investigations.

Police received a tour of the chancery on March 11, he said in an email, "to follow up on questions their investigators had, and to dispel the notion of a so-called secret vault where files of active and inactive clergy were kept."

The tour included a visit to the vault that stores the archdiocese's personnel records, Accurso said, but police did not ask to look at any of those files.

St. Paul Police Department spokesman Howie Padilla declined to comment on the tour or whether the archdiocese had offered the department the opportunity to review the files as described in the archdiocese's statement. He said the archdiocese has allowed police to review some documents in the past several months upon request.

"I'm not going to get into a blow by blow of what we asked for or what was provided or what we're investigating," Padilla said.

Files on abusive priests often include formal memos between senior officials discussing how to respond, handwritten letters from victims and their families, and written reports from private investigators hired by the archdiocese.

The documents could serve as key evidence that police could use to investigate individual priests for abuse and archdiocesan officials for covering up the scandal.

Attorney seeking out documents

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson continues to ask police to seize all of the files on abusive priests. Anderson, who has represented thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse across the country, said he has been providing police documents from his own files since September.

At a news conference Wednesday, Anderson vowed to turn over more documents that he received from the archdiocese this week as part of a clergy abuse lawsuit.

Thursday morning Anderson turned over documents to a St. Paul police sergeant, he said, adding that he plans to continue to provide as much information as possible to help police investigate the clergy abuse scandal.

The 12 agencies that reported no record of any contact with the archdiocese as described in the archdiocese's statement are: the Maplewood Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, the West St. Paul Police Department, the Inver Grove Heights Police Department, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the Dakota County Sheriff's Office, the Plymouth Police Department, the Maple Grove Police Department, the North St. Paul Police Department, the Eden Prairie Police Department, the New Brighton Police Department, and the New Prague Police Department.

Dakota County Sheriff Chief Deputy Tim Leslie was among those who hadn't been contacted. "I'd not heard of that," he said. "It's news to me."

Officials at the Washington County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Brooklyn Park, Bloomington, Minneapolis, White Bear Lake and Roseville did not return requests for comment.