A canon lawyer alleging a widespread coverup of clergy sex misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made her most detailed claims yet, accusing archbishops and their top staff of lying to the public and of ignoring the U.S. bishops' pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse.
Jennifer Haselberger, who spent five years as Archbishop John Nienstedt's archivist and top adviser on Roman Catholic church law and first complained about the archdiocese in September, also charged that the church used a chaotic system of recordkeeping that helped hide the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment.
Haselberger said that when she started examining records in 2008 of clergy under restrictions over sex misconduct with adults and children she found "nearly 20" of the 48 men still in ministry. She said she repeatedly warned Nienstedt and his aides about the risk of these placements, but they took action only in one case. She resigned last year.
"Had there been any serious desire to implement change, it could have been done quickly and easily with the stroke of a single pen," Haselberger wrote in an affidavit, released Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by attorney Jeff Anderson. "The archbishop's administrative authority in his diocese is basically unlimited."
The archdiocese has for years pledged it was following the national bishops' policy, known as the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which lays out a series of requirements — from conducting background checks to barring guilty clergy from parish assignments.
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said in a statement that Haselberger's "recollections are not always shared by others within the archdiocese." He said the archdiocese was taking steps toward "greater transparency and accountability."