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Attorney releases more names of priests accused of sex abuse

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Attorney Jeff Anderson spoke at a press conference
Attorney Jeff Anderson spoke at a press conference in St. Paul with Joe and Colleen McLean behind him, and Mike Finnegan, far right. At the press conference, Anderson announced the release of the names of seven priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, one of whom McLean says abused him as a minor.
Regina McCombs | MPR News

Attorney Jeff Anderson released the names of seven priests deemed "credibly accused" of child sex abuse on Tuesday, as part of a settlement with a Catholic religious order.

The men served in the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate — a Catholic order of priests and brothers — and worked in various parishes and organizations in Minnesota. Five of the men are dead, and the other two men are no longer priests, according to Will Shaw, a spokesperson for the order.

One of the men had already been included on a list of credibly accused priests released last year by the Diocese of Crookston.

The disclosure was part of a settlement reached between an alleged victim of an Oblates priest and the Oblates. The man, identified in court records as Doe 30, had sued the Oblates and the New Ulm and Duluth dioceses for alleged abuse by the Rev. Vincent Fitzgerald, an Oblates priest who died in 2009. The portion of the lawsuit against the two dioceses hasn't been resolved. 

As part of the settlement, the Oblates agreed that Anderson's law firm could release the names of the men the Oblates have deemed credibly accused of child sexual abuse, Shaw said.

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

In addition to Fitzgerald, who was previously named by the Crookston diocese, the men are: Michael Charland, Paul Kabat, Orville Lawrence Munie, Thomas Meyer, Robert Reitmeier and Emil Twardochleb.

Charland left the Oblates in the 1980s and now works as a psychologist in the Twin Cities area. He did not immediately respond to interview requests. Reitmeier, who served in Duluth and St. Paul, could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, the Oblates said, "We agreed to the public release of this information by Plaintiff's counsel, Jeff Anderson & Associates, because transparency and a safe environment for minors who are involved in church activities were of deep concern to Doe 30 and are of deep concern to us as well."

It said, "The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate are sincerely sorry for the suffering and loss that Doe 30 and others have lived with for many years because of the abuse they experienced. They remain in our prayers as we work to accomplish our mutual goal of a safe and supportive environment for all God's children."

Anderson did not provide details about the allegations against the men or release the documents the order kept on each priest. He said he plans to release the documents as soon as they can be redacted to remove the names of victims.

Over the past two years, in response to public pressure and lawsuits, several Catholic dioceses and religious groups have disclosed the names of priests accused of child sex abuse.

Several of the men on the list released Tuesday also served in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It's not clear why the men weren't included on the archdiocese's list of credibly accused priests released in 2013. Tim O'Malley, director of the archdiocese's child safety efforts, said in a statement that the archdiocese is reviewing the list of names.

"To date, we have had insufficient information on these individuals to include them on the Archdiocese list under the standards articulated on our website," he said. "We are reaching out to the Oblates for more information."

At a news conference, Anderson said the disclosure is important because it may lead other victims to come forward and file claims in the archdiocese's bankruptcy case before the Aug. 3 deadline.

The man who filed the lawsuit did not appear at the news conference.

Joe McLean
Joe McLean, who has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis claiming he was sexually abused as a minor, spoke at a press conference, July 7, 2015, with his wife, Colleen, behind him.
Regina McCombs | MPR News

However, another man who said he was abused by one of the priests on the list did speak to reporters at Anderson's office Tuesday. 

Joe McLean, 51, said Charland sexually abused him in 1981 at a Catholic retreat for teenagers when he was 17 years old. He said the abuse happened as part of a confession during the retreat in the basement of St. Mary's parish in St. Paul.

McLean said he's glad that Charland's name was included on the list. "It's a huge relief," he said. "There's a sense of justice that's taking place right now for me personally."

McLean had been trying to notify the public of the allegation against Charland for more than a decade. In 2002, he said, he realized that Charland was working as a therapist and an assistant director of the Center for 4H Youth Development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

That led McLean to report the abuse allegation to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Center for 4H Youth Development, the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

He didn't receive much information from church officials, according to documents McLean provided to MPR News.

In an email sent to McLean in April 2002, the Rev. David Kalert, a leader of the Oblates at the time, said Charland had left the priesthood nearly 20 years ago.

"I have not had any information from or about him since he left the community," Kalert replied to McLean. "It is my impression that he is in the Twin Cities area, but I do not have any way to verify that. I hope this is helpful."

McLean received some help in 2002 from the Rev. Kevin McDonough, who was the vicar general of the Twin Cities archdiocese.

McDonough wrote a letter to the director of the Center for 4H Youth Development in Minneapolis, where Charland worked as the assistant director, as well as the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Kalert about the abuse allegation against Charland.

McDonough included a letter from McLean that described the alleged abuse.

Charland left his job at the University of Minnesota in 2004, according to university spokesperson Joseph Koktan, who declined to say why Charland left.

In 2013, McLean reported the alleged abuse to St. Paul police. The Ramsey County Attorney's Office declined to file charges because the statute of limitations had passed.

Shaw, the spokesperson for the Oblates, said Charland left the order in 1984.

Two other men on the list — Reitmeier and Kabat — also left the order, Shaw said. The Oblates have not said why the men left.