The Chancellor Shows Courage

Before the recent revelations of child porn sitting in the Secret Archives of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul, most people never stopped to think about the role of a Archdiocesan Chancellor. Some may have an image of Thomas Beckett or a librarian type. But most, honestly, just scratch their head.

So, what is a chancellor supposed to do? And how did St. Paul Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger stumble upon child porn in Archbishop Nienstedt’s secret archives?

The office of Chancellor in the Roman Catholic Church is first and foremost to “take care that the acts of the curia are gathered, arranged and safeguarded in the archive of the curia”. (1983 CIC 482)  This sounds a lot like a librarian, but the job also includes maintaining the entire inventory, or catalogue, of both the historical, secret and criminal archives.

What makes this job different than that of a librarian is that the cover up of clerical sexual abuse of minors in Saint Paul goes back to (at least) Archbishop Leo Binz in the 1960s. The cover-up documents have been stored at the Chancery on Summit Avenue as mandated by the Pope in the code of canon law. For instance, Father Jerome C. Kern’s file contains evidence the Archbishop was aware Kern was sexually abusing minor boys in 1969.

But why is there an explosion now when the Archbishop knew of the child porn in 2003?

The answer is simple: Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger.

Haselberger was the first lay female ever appointed Chancellor in St.Paul. She does not belong to the clerical “caste” and apparently she didn’t absorb the “Tradition of clerical immunity.” When she found the porn in the secret vaults, Haselberger followed her conscience and called law enforcement.

When the Archbishop was about to transfer Father Jon Shelley, Haselberger naturally reviewed the files under her care. She found a Saint Luke Institute report, an investigation by the Vicar General Kevin McDonough, and the porn vault. She found evidence that there were three computers, half a dozen morally disturbing searches and thousands of nefarious images sitting in the archives. There was nothing ambiguous about it.

What Now?

First, the Haselberger experience informs us that all church archives need to be reviewed by independent prosecutors in law enforcement. These prosecutors answer to the people, not the Pope.

Second, this 2013 experience teaches us that the Roman Catholic Church has not learned and in fact may not have the capacity to learn how to protect children in their care.

Third, we must press our leaders. Experience tells us that St. Paul is NOT unique. Are there priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors in ministry today?  We must press church leaders to make public what they know, urge prosecutors to demand files, and implore Catholics to withhold contributions until they and we can be assured that there are no criminals in active ministry.

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5 Comments

Filed under canon law, clergy abuse

5 responses to “The Chancellor Shows Courage

  1. Where are the Federal and state prosecutors now? We pay taxes for them to enforce our laws.

    Possession of child porn is a Federal crime separately prosecutable.

    Where are the FBI and the US Justice Department?

    Does the reported role of Kevin McDonough entitle the St. Paul Archdiocese to a pass because his brother is President Obama’s Chief of Staff? Kevin is entitled to a presumption of innocence, certainly, but not to immunity from investigation where serious criminal law questions have been raised.

    Why did Msgr. Laird quit? Why didn’t his boss. Archbishop Nienstedt quit as well?

    Citizens, especially parents, need some answers promptly, and it is the prosecutors duty to get them. Many children are still at risk.

    A “friendly investigation” overseen by a Dominican priest, Fr. Whitt, is hardly a substitute for the responsible prosecutors doing their job. The top current officials in Rome whose department failed here, Archbishops Mueller and DiNoia, are both Dominicans and are senior to Fr. Whitt.
    Does the Vatican think Minn. Catholics are just plain dumb? Apparently, it does.

    This is all very puzzling to me as a retired lawyer and even a cause for serious concern as a grandparent..

  2. Looks like the Roman Cowards have a lot of explaining to do.

  3. Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis – Director of Task Force, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

    “Canon law is very eloquent on what a bishop is supposed to do, but there is no list of Thou Shalt Nots,” says Father Reginald Whitt (2002). “These (sex abusers) are criminals, but they are our criminals and we can’t lose them. Indeed, the bishops have a duty to try to save them,” says the Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. (2002)

    “……BISHOPS HAVE A DUTY TO TRY TO SAVE THEM (sex abuser priests)…..” Well, Fr. Whitt, where is it written (no, not in text or canon law…….it is written in one’s heart and soul) that the bishops have a duty to try to save the CHILDREN ABUSED and INNOCENT CHILDREN from the risk of abuse?

    Seems like little has changed since these issues were studied over a decade ago by during the Dallas Charter Charade of the USCCB.

    Father Whitt has a degree in canon law and civil law. Which perspective will take prominence and priority when he reviews the findings of the task force committee he established to review the debacle in the archdiocese? It is humanly, ethically and morally IMPOSSIBLE to avoid/resolve the conflicts of interest from both perspectives (civil and canon law) when attempting to review and support the rights of priests vs the rights of child victims.

    Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Kansas City move over…………….here come the Twin Cities and their unique brand of US Catholic Church leadership.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

    • Thankyou Captain Retired Micheal Skiendzielewski, Your plea +educated response is the response my father lead over 35 years ago in grave attempt to defend his 3 children + other children of St.John’s Abbey parish, Collegeville,Mn “allegedly ” being raped by ordained priests of the Abbey. Our families fight for public access+exposure to canon law protected files has been lifelong. Fr. Kevin McDonough was approached multiple occasions each year by my father demanding thourough invesigations+ for heirarchy to report to proper civil authorities. Fr. McDonough continued to threaten my father “distance yourself for St.John’s+ the Abbey or you will loose your employeement + benefits.” My father is/was an graduate of St. John’s Prep+ university, he also served at the Liturgical Press for nearly 45 years. Our family went to every proper civil office to seek out the right to witness+protection for our entire family developement. for 35 years until his death bed Aug 6,2009, My father was denied,, from every vector of the state. ask Jim Rothstein retired NYC detective,, A.W. Sipe +Patrick Wall, all expert witness contemporaries of my Father. We want full disclosure of all achival record housed in each+every diocese+ St.John’s Abbey and St,Lukes Institute. We demand life time repairations + life time+after lifetime jail sentances for the organized clergy pedophiles allowed to operate in the state of Mn. Anything vital to a human family, St.John’s + their rapist clergy have stolen from us, their methods mirror those of the 3rd Reich.

      Thankyou,
      Elizabeth C, Vessel
      Surviving Victim+Witness

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