Whistleblower: 'It's pretty much same old, same old' at the St. Paul archdiocese

Jennifer Haselberger
Jennifer Haselberger photographed Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 at her St. Paul home. She is the former top canon lawyer for the archdiocese.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

The whistleblower who revealed how her superiors at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis were handling clergy sexual misconduct said the recent criminal charges and civil petition are a step in the right direction to stop future abuse.

Jennifer Haselberger was once the top canon lawyer for the archdiocese. She resigned that post and two years ago approached MPR News with her story of frustration.

The archdiocese stands criminally accused after Friday's announcement of charges by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, who said the archdiocese contributed to harm done to three victims of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer.

"I think a lot of emphasis is being placed on the criminal charges, which I think many people feel are appropriate, but to me the real interest is the civil petition that's conjoined with it," Haselberger said. "In terms of actually creating a safer environment for children and the vulnerable in the church, it's going to be the civil petition that will do that."

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The Ramsey County Attorney's Office also filed a civil motion that "would force the archdiocese to stop the alleged illegal behavior," reported MPR News. "It asks the court to require the archdiocese to fix the conditions that led to the problems, a county attorney's office spokesman said."

Haselberger said she is still waiting to hear an official apology from the church and to see serious changes to the organization.

"I've raised the point time and time again that the leadership has to change. It just has to because while the archdiocese likes to try and suggest to us that these were things in the past and they've changed, nothing that I've seen, and that includes even recent policy decisions, is really going to accomplish that," she said. "It's pretty much same old, same old."

Haselberger said she saw firsthand the work by outside investigators to understand the problems within the archdiocese. "That hasn't been matched at all by the church," she said. "There's been absolutely no interest in finding out what went wrong or what we could learn from it. That, I never anticipated."