No plea for Minnesota archdiocese in criminal case

A Minnesota archdiocese that faces criminal charges over its handling of an abusive priest didn't enter a plea at its initial hearing Thursday.

No leaders from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis appeared at the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes.

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The archdiocese faces six gross misdemeanor counts of child endangerment for allegedly turning a blind eye to repeated misconduct by Curtis Wehmeyer, a now-imprisoned former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who was convicted of molesting two boys in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.

Ramsey County Chief Judge Teresa Warner scheduled the next court date for Nov. 30. She told Assistant County Attorney Tom Ring and archdiocese defense attorney Joe Dixon that she understood that discussions or negotiations were continuing but gave no details.

Dixon and Ring declined to comment on the proceedings afterward. Both sides said they would issue separate statements later Thursday. The archdiocese has said it is cooperating with prosecutors.

Each of the six criminal counts filed in June carries a maximum fine of $3,000. Prosecutors also filed a civil petition then that asks a court to order the archdiocese to stop failing to protect children. While the two matters are technically separate cases, the court is handling them together.

Prosecutors say top church officials failed to respond to "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by Wehmeyer, dating back to when he entered seminary in 1997 until he was defrocked in March.