To assist with questions related to the Minnesota Child Victims Act, the diocese will be updating resources on this disclosure page. If you have any immediate questions or concerns please contact our Office of Public Relations (507-858-1258)
Statement from the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota Regarding the Expiration of the MN Child Victims Act
The last three years have brought fresh light to the painful reality of sexual abuse and those who have been hurt by it. We, the bishops of the state of Minnesota, cannot imagine the pain those individuals and their families carry with them and the courage it takes to tell someone, “I was abused” and relive what happened. We apologize for their pain and we thank them for coming forward.
While we cannot say or do anything to return the innocence of youth that was stolen, we will work to restore broken relationships with family, friends and loved ones and help heal the pain caused to so many. We promise that we will continue to work every day to make sure our churches, schools and communities are safe for all people – especially children. When an allegation of sexual abuse is made against a clergy member or someone else in the Church, we will not be silent. We will continue to report every allegation to law enforcement immediately and cooperate with them every step of the way. We also promise to continue stringent hiring standards, background checks for employees and volunteers who interact with children, and specialized training for employees and volunteers to make sure they are able to recognize the signs that might suggest that young people are at risk or in danger.
We apologize to all of those who have been hurt and to their families and friends who have been affected by that pain and loss. We are truly sorry.
Please join us as we continue to pray for all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
The Catholic Bishops of the State of Minnesota
Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner, Diocese of Crookston
Bishop Paul D. Sirba, Diocese of Duluth
Bishop John M. LeVoir, Diocese of New Ulm
Bishop Donald J. Kettler, Diocese of Saint Cloud
Bishop John M. Quinn, Diocese of Winona
Message to the faithful of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester
The Diocese of Winona-Rochester along with a number of parishes and schools in our diocese and others in Minnesota has recently been sued under the Minnesota Child Victims Act. As you may know, the Minnesota Child Victims Act lifted the civil statute of limitations for claims of sexual abuse for a three year time period. As a result, individuals may now bring claims which were previously prohibited by the statute of limitations. The deadline to file a claim is May 25, 2016.
All of the cases that the diocese is aware of, date back several decades. The claims that have been served do not involve anyone active in ministry or anyone in our schools within the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.
Efforts are underway to communicate this news with our affected communities.
These suits should not affect the day to day operations of our parishes and schools. Our attorneys are in the process of working with our insurers to resolve these matters. It is our commitment to ensure that the mission of our parishes and schools continues.
Our diocese and its parishes are committed to ensuring a safe environment for our young people. We have fully adopted the recommendations from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and all of our staff and volunteers receive background checks and are trained through the VIRTUS program.
The support and healing of survivors of child sexual abuse remains a top priority for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester. Anyone who has been abused recently or in the past is encouraged to come forward and report the abuse to civil authorities. Parish communities are encouraged to pray for the healing of anyone who has suffered sexual abuse.
Read a letter from Bishop John M. Quinn and view resources regarding these recent lawsuits below.
Letter from Bishop Quinn
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
I write to you today concerning the child sexual abuse lawsuits facing the Diocese of Winona and various parishes and Catholic schools. As you might be aware, in May of 2013, the Minnesota Legislature lifted the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, opening a window for past victims to file claims through May 25, 2016. As the deadline approaches we will learn more about these suits and who is affected.
It is important to share a few pieces of information about these claims. First, these lawsuits arise out of sexual misconduct that happened several decades ago. These are not new claims, and it is important to emphasize that none of the priests who have been accused of sexual abuse are currently in ministry, and many are deceased. It is also important to remember victims and work toward their healing and support. As a diocese, we must acknowledge past cases of abuse and encourage the dignified treatment of the many survivors who have come forward.
There is much unknown in this process of litigation, and we are currently communicating between the diocese, parishes and schools to be prepared to resolve claims in a just and equitable fashion. All of this preparation and planning is taking place to support victims and allow for the necessary healing in our diocese.
The care and support of survivors remains a priority for me and our diocesan family, and it is important to remind people of the May 25th deadline. I continue to encourage all survivors of child sexual abuse to report the abuse to civil authorities.
Please remember these intentions in your prayers and know that I will keep our communities informed as we learn more. May the risen Christ conquer death and bring light into the darkness.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. John M. Quinn
Bishop of the Diocese of Winona
Information on How the Diocese Is Providing Safe Environments
- More than 30,500 criminal background checks have been run on clergy, employees and volunteers since 2002.
- More than 1,200 VIRTUS sessions have taken place in the diocese since we started using that safe environment education program for adults five years ago.
- More than 9,000 attendees have been trained (as of this date there have been 9,868 trained).
- More than 1,500 priests, deacons, seminarians, youth ministers, directors of religious education, school administrators and teachers read monthly VIRTUS® training bulletins.
- More than 11,000 children attended ‘Circle of Grace’, the safe environment education program for children, in our Catholic schools and parishes in the 2014-15 academic year.
- More than 70 VIRTUS® Facilitators throughout the diocese are trained to teach the VIRTUS® ‘Protecting God’s Children for Adults Program’.
- The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has been found compliant as a result of the annual audits for the Safe Environment Program that have been ongoing since 2003.
Disclosures Regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors
In 2002, the National Review Board commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct a blind study to determine the nature and scope of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Each diocese in the United States was contacted by John Jay College and was required to report the number of priests within its diocese who had “credible” accusations of abuse.
The study required the report of any accusation that was not implausible (see definition below). This included allegations that did not necessarily result in a criminal, civil or diocesan investigation and allegations that were unsubstantiated.
The national study defined an implausible allegation as one that could not possibly have happened under the given circumstances (e.g., an accusation is made to a bishop about a priest who never served at that diocese). The study went on to say that erroneous information does not necessarily make the allegation implausible (e.g., a priest arrived at the diocese a year after the alleged abuse, but all other facts of the case are credible and the alleged victim might have mistaken the date). Allegations that were determined not to be “implausible” have since been referred to as “credible” accusations.
The methodology of the study encouraged over-reporting and the study specifically directed each diocese not to engage in the endeavor of weighing the credibility of any of the accusations out of concern that the data produced by the study would arguably be invalid because of subjective determinations as to the credibility of, or substantiation of, the allegation(s).
The national study concluded that approximately 4% of priests in ministry had accusations of abuse made against them. The study also found that the annual number of incidents of sexual abuse of minors by priests increased steadily to a peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s and then declined sharply after 1985.
The Ramsey County District Court has ordered that the Diocese of Winona publicly release the names associated with the John Jay College Study, as well any other priests who have had accusations of child sexual abuse since 2004. In compliance with that Order, the Diocese of Winona hereby releases the following names, ages, places of ministry, ministerial status and current location of each priest associated with the John Jay Study, as well as the same information of those who have been accused of perpetrating sexual abuse against a minor since 2002.
In the interest of accountability, the Diocese of Winona maintains an updated list of names of men who have substantiated claims against them of sexually abusing a minor while they were assigned as priests in our diocese. The initial disclosure list was posted in December 2013. One additional name was posted October 23, 2014 and the alleged abuse occured outside the diocese.
Thirteen John Jay Study Priests
(Click each name to access the detailed priest summary)
Priests Accused of Abuse after 2004
Priests Names Added after initial listing
October 23, 2014
- James Nickel (Alleged abuse outside of the diocese) Deceased 2008
April 10, 2015
The Diocese of Winona-Rochester is committed to the protection of young people and adherence to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and encourages anyone who has been sexual abused to immediately report the abuse to law enforcement or the proper authorities.