NEW ULM - In Minneapolis, Winona and New Ulm, members of the Minnesota branch of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) staged protests Tuesday to demand more information about the sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Minnesota by releasing a list of 130 clerics accused of misconduct.
At each location, SNAP members presented May Day baskets stuffed with the list of accused clerics to ranking church officials, if they were willing to meet with them. Otherwise, the baskets were hung on doors.
The New Ulm Diocese was not a primary focus of the event. But, it was included as an overall effort to gain information from dioceses because priest connected to abuse had been part of the diocese more than 25 years ago. Cyril Denn, a North Mankato resident, was the only SNAP member to attend the New Ulm event. Denn suffered sexual abuse while at St. John's Prep in Collegeville.
The protest was intended to bring out information about sexual abuse by priests for two reasons: first, to put pressure on the diocese to identify church officials not yet cited for misconduct. Second, it was more squarely aimed to bring to light clergy already accused of misconduct to encourage their victims to come forward and receive help.
Monsignor Douglas Grams spoke with Denn at the Diocese of New Ulm Pastoral Center. He accepted the basket from Denn and listened to his request. Grams said the Diocese of New Ulm has had a comprehensive safe environment program since the early 2000s that aims at teaching clergy, teachers, parents and children to report and prevent sexual misconduct. Individuals with concerns related to sexual misconduct were urged to report it.
Information for the Victim Assistance Coordinator or the Bishop's Delegate in Matters Pertaining to Sexual Misconduct could be reached through the diocese website or by calling (507) 359-2966.
Cyril Denn, a North Mankato resident, represented SNAP at the New Ulm Diocese on Tuesday.
Grams said Denn's protest was helpful, adding that any efforts that suppressed information on the matter were a disservice to victims and the diocese.
Denn said it would take time to tell if people at the each of the dioceses would act on their words. But, he said that he was optimistic about progress.
Statewide, SNAP said many of the clergy in the list of 130 accused have already been identified in police reports, court documents and the media. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul released a statement saying it already made public any accusations. The statement also listed several clergy on the list that had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Rev. Douglas Schleisman of New Ulm was the only locally identified church official on SNAP's list. He was accused of misconduct in a civil lawsuit in 1993.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)