Bishop Hoeppner issues ‘pastoral statement’

    At a news conference Wednesday, Jeff Anderson & Associates and sexual abuse survivors called for a statewide grand jury investigation of alleged cover-ups by Catholic bishops in Minnesota. Attorney Jeff Anderson said he was inspired by Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation that showed over 300 offenders in the state had molested more than 1,000 children.

    Anderson says they’ve been able to uncover tens of thousands of files of offenders that reflect “every Catholic bishop present and past” that have been complicit of concealment of clerical crimes, and, now, calls upon Governor Mark Dayton to convene a grand jury. He added that he had reached out to several county attorneys to call a grand jury to investigate these crimes, but noted that they either “couldn’t” or “haven’t.”

    “We know the Diocese of Crookston and the Bishop of Crookston, Hoeppner, has refused to turn over the files that we know reflect offenses that have been committed,” Anderson explained. “They’ve identified nine offenders on their list; we know there are more.”

    “It’s similar to Duluth, they are 37 offenders identified; we know there are more,” he added. “In other words, they’re holding on to their secrets.”

    Anderson went on to discuss the “playbook” that was found in Pennsylvania during their grand jury investigation that “concealed the truth.” He said there were “seven steps” in the playbook.

    “They used euphemisms to describe rape and assault as inappropriate conduct, don’t conduct genuine investigations, give the appearance that they’re (priests) being sent away for evaluation and diagnosed to be okay, if they have to be removed from a school or parish just remove and don’t say why and keep it a secret, if a priest is accused of raping children let him keep housing and privileges and pay, if it’s known to the community don’t remove him from priesthood just transfer to a different parish, state or country; finally, don’t tell the police,” Anderson read. “Now, it’s time for us to stand and call for action and that the state of Minnesota bring the law and resources to have the governor convene a grand jury.”

    One survivor who spoke at the podium said the “people of the church” have been standing on the sidelines “not supporting us”, but need to “stand with us” so “the truth will be known.”

    “I will not stop until I’m in my grave or until the children are safe.”

PASTORAL STATEMENT FROM BISHOP HOEPPNER

    Bishop Michael Hoeppner’s pastoral statement regarding revelations of misconduct in the United States:

    “My Dear Faithful of the Diocese of Crookston,

    “The recent revelations regarding allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop McCarrick and the publication of the Grand Jury report detailing sexual abuse perpetrated by 300 priests, on 1000 victims, over a 70-year period in six dioceses of Pennsylvania, are deeply disturbing. The horrific acts described and their alleged dismissal and/or cover-up by Church authorities fill us with a sense of disgust, anger, outrage, shame and sadness. It is painful to have to admit, once again, that this evil has been part of the life of the People of God in the United States. This evil is acknowledged; it is condemned.

    “All victims are owed sincere apologies for what those entrusted with leadership in the Church have done and have failed to do. It is important that we promise to continue, with renewed effort, our commitment to build in the Church, as Pope Francis puts it, “a culture of care that says `never again’ to any form of abuse.”

    “To this end, Cardinal DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has announced that, with an approval vote of the Conference, we will ask the Holy See to conduct an Apostolic Visitation in which a thorough investigation of these matters, utilizing qualified laypersons, can be undertaken. Changes are necessary so that sins and failures of the past are not repeated.

    “My friends, as we look to the need for juridical and organizational change, we recognize that fighting evil calls for engagement by all. In his recent Letter to the Church, Pope Francis addresses this moment in our life by saying, “The only way we can respond to the evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us, the People of God.” And so, our Holy Father calls each of us, “the entire holy, faithful People of God, to the penitential exercises of prayer and fasting.”

    “I invite you to join me in prayer and fasting as we fight the evil of sexual abuse and all its ramifications at this moment in our Church’s life. I ask you to: 1) Offer a prayer daily for all victims of sexual abuse and their families; ask God to be with them and watch over them. 2) Sacrifice by fasting and abstaining from eating meat on Fridays as a prayer to Almighty God for forgiveness of sins and as a prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that all might do better. 3) I ask all of our priests to pray a Votive Mass for the Church at a weekday Mass at least once a month and invite all parishioners to attend.

    “The Church, as the Bride of Christ, is holy. Our holiness is both a gift and a challenge. In this moment, as we work and pray to fight evil and grow in holiness, these words of St. Paul encourage us: “This treasure we possess in earthen vessels to make it clear that its surpassing power comes from God, not from us. We are afflicted in every way possible, but we are not crushed; full of doubts, we never despair...” (2 Cor. 4:7-8) May Mary our Queen intercede for us.”