GOLDEN VALLEY - The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced details Wednesday of its special task force that will look into the churches' handling of recent priest abuse.
"The things depicted in these reports are sickening, they're despicable. And they break our hearts," said Father Reginald Whitt about recent news reports. Appointed by Archbishop John Neinstedt, Father Whitt announced a six-member lay task force called the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force.
Whitt, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, assures the group will have full access to church documents and its officials, including the archbishop, in order to investigate the church's handling of recent priest abuse and once the report is completed Whitt claims it will be made public.
The group met for the first time Wednesday but don't know yet how many times they'll meet or when the inquiry will be completed.
"They're going to make a report based on their findings, they're going to make recommendations based on their assessments," he said of the group which is made up of lawyers, a former police officer and a psychologist.
This comes after the archbishop's second in command, Peter Laird resigned last week after allegations church officials ignored abuse claims.
The latest scandal reported Wednesday by KARE 11 partner Minnesota Public Radio News saying Reverend Robert Kapoun known as the Polka Padre was still getting hefty retirement benefits despite being accused of sexual abuse.
"You can make all the promises in the world but there's never any enforcement when those promises are broken," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP.
Although Whitt is not a part of the task force, the group will report to him. That raises concerns for Chohessy.
"This is one more effort by church officials to try to handle things in house," he said. "Every time a bishop is caught concealing child sex crimes and faces a firestorm of public criticism, he says shucks let's look at our policies."
But Brian Short, a task force member and CEO of Leamington Co. in Minneapolis, promises an independent review, saying the stakes are too high for anything less.
"If the Catholic Church doesn't fix this problem its ability to act as a force for good, however anyone of us defines that, is over," said Short.
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