|Panel to review Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocesan abuse policies abuse|
Catholic News ServiceST. PAUL, Minn. — A newly formed Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force will conduct a full review of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' policies and practices and "any and all issues" related to clergy sexual misconduct.
This includes examining how allegations of clergy sexual misconduct have been handled and what must be done to address any gaps in the process.
The findings and recommendations of the independent lay group will be released publicly when its final report is completet.
The creation of the task force comes amid sexual misconduct allegations in the media concerning certain priests in the archdiocese and how their cases were handled by archdiocesan officials.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under fire for its handling of two cases involving sexual misconduct by priests, is also fighting a battle on a second front, facing heightened demands that it release a list held in secret since 2004 of alleged sex offenders among its clergy.
Release of the full tally, which might run to dozens of priests facing credible allegations of abuse, could ignite an entirely new round of accusations and lawsuits at a time when many Catholics thought the worst of the clergy sex abuse tragedy was behind the church, the Minneapolis Sta-Tribune reported.
"These allegations must be addressed urgently, transparently and with truly independent review," Archbishop John Nienstedt said. "Addressing these serious allegations is the top priority for the archdiocese."
The archbishop has appointed a new vicar for ministerial standards, Dominican Father Reginald Whitt, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He will assume full responsibility for all issues related to clergy sexual misconduct, the archdiocese said.
Father Whitt is appointing the members of the all-layperson task force, which was expected to convene soon. It will consist of at least six people from a variety of backgrounds -- none of whom is employed by the archdiocese or any of its parishes.
Archbishop Nienstedt said there is "no room for misconduct among our clergy and our standard must be zero tolerance for abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. We hold a sacred trust. Our very vocation requires the highest standard of conduct so that all may be drawn to the person of Jesus Christ through our witness."
The archdiocese will provide the task force with access to records of the archdiocese related to clergy sexual misconduct, and policies and procedures of the archdiocese related to the handling of clergy sexual misconduct and the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults from such misconduct.
The task force will issue a report, or multiple reports, if it deems appropriate, to the vicar of ministerial standards.