Minnesota church officials covered up priest’s child molestation before turning him in
Officials within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, were aware that one of its priests was sexually abusing minors for years before he was convicted, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
The archdiocese allegedly became aware of Curtis Wehmeyer’s illicit activities in 2005, seven years before his 2012 conviction on charges of criminal sexual conduct, and possession of child pornography. He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
MPR also published a 2011 memo from then-local vicar general, Rev. Kevin McDonough, recommending against making Wehmeyer’s actions known to parish employees. McDonough’s job duties included supervising the archdiocese’s efforts to protect young parishoners from sexual abuse. He resigned in September 2013.
“Disclosure in the church-rectory-office setting is aimed at preventing a priest from misusing his position as a priest to obtain impermissible favors (sex, money, information) from those to whom he ministers,” McDonough wrote in the memo. “With Father Wehmeyer, that has never been a question.”
McDonough cited a 2006 in which Wehmeyer was caught by police while he was parked at a local park reportedly known in the area as a popular site for what McDonough referred to as “anonymous same-sex sexual encounters.” Wehmeyer told a police officer at the time that he was not aware of the park’s reputation, but MPR reported that after leaving, he was seen circling back to the park twice.
The memo also referred to a “suggestive conversation” between Wehmeyer and a 19-year-old man and his 20-year-old friend at a local bookstore in 2004, in which Wehmeyer allegedly asked one of the men, “Are you fu*king horny right now?” According to MPR, a parishoner reported the bookstore encounter to McDonough and was told Wehmeyer was receiving counseling.
But in the memo, McDonough downplays such an approach, arguing that Wehmeyer was “obtaining stimulation by ‘playing with fire,'” and not looking for sex and advocating an in-house solution to his actions.
“I do not remember whether [Wehmeyer] has a priest support group of any sort,” McDonough wrote. “I think he would do well to have some real friends who can challenge him about how he is doing in living his priestly vocation with integrity.”
By the time the memo was sent, MPR reported, McDonough had also been alerted to a psychological assessment stating that Wehmeyer had an addiction to sex, as well as personnel documents stating Wehmeyer had violated the organization’s code of conduct on several occasions. Wehmeyer was also reported on three separate occasions in 2009, including once by a priest accusing Wehmeyer of propositioning him for sex.
But in 2010, McDonough named Wehmeyer to serve as pastor for two local parishes. In an interview with MPR that same year, McDonough said the archdiocese’s top priority was protecting church members.
“We ought to be, of course, a hundred times stricter against anyone who could harm especially the vulnerable members of our church,” McDonough told MPR at the time.
Wehmeyer was finally stopped in June 2012, when a parent and parish employee reported him to the archdiocese for luring her underage son and another boy into his camper, gave them alcohol and assaulted them while watching pornography. Wehmeyer was reported to authorities shortly afterwards.
[Image: “Priest Reading From The Holy Bible, Close Up” via Shutterstock]
[h/t Minneapolis City Pages]