Victim, expert respond to Archbishop's letter

10:00 PM, Nov 11, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An open letter written by Archbishop John Nienstedt Monday morning began with a common storyline.

Nienstedt was writing to inform the masses that a former priest, Clarence Vavra, who served 38 years in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told church officials in 1995 he sexually abused young boys in 1975.

Nienstedt claims Vavra was sent to treatment for his self-confessed crimes but those were not disclosed further. Vavra was never criminally charged.

Nienstedt said how the Archdiocese handled that was wrong.

"Serious errors were made by the Archdiocese in dealing with him," Nienstedt wrote.

The Archbishop went on suggesting that those kinds of wrongs won't happen again.

"The Archdiocese will be disclosing the names, locations and status of priests currently living in the Archdiocese, and who we know have substantiated claims against them of committing sexual abuse against minors," Nienstedt said.

Naming names is too little too late, according to at least one victim of past sexual abuse by clergy.

"Words, nothing but words," victim Bob Schwiderski said Monday.

Schwiderski says he was sexually abused by a priest when he was 7-years-old.

Monday's apology and call to action he says doesn't work unless the church goes into the communities to really find out what happened back then and now.

"They have to get off that hill in downtown St. Paul and go out to the assignments; they got to reach out to where people are. If people can't trust them, do they think they will just crawl up that hill up there and tell them," Schwiderski said.

But Dr. Charles Reid, an expert in Canon Law at the University of St. Thomas, says the letter and intent to name wrongdoers does matter.

"I hope it's a watershed moment for the good. I hope it's a watershed moment for transparency," Reid said.

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