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Minnesota lawsuit seeks release of Vatican files on clergy sex abuse

The plaintiffs are five men, all survivors of clergy abuse, including three brothers who say their abuser is former St. Paul priest, Curtis Wehmeyer.

ST PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, seeks to force the Vatican to release the names and files of all clergy worldwide accused of abuse.

The plaintiffs are five men, all survivors of clergy abuse, including three brothers who say their abuser is former St. Paul priest, Curtis Wehmeyer.

Luke, Stephen, and Ben Hoffman appeared at a news conference Tuesday about the lawsuit, speaking publicly about their abuse for the first time. 

"I just want the Vatican to do what's right, and bring everything into the light, and make sure kids can be safe going into the place where they want to learn more about their faith," said Stephen Hoffman. 

Wehmeyer went to prison after pleading guilty in 2012 to molesting two boys and possessing child pornography. 

The Archdiocese was criminally charged in 2015 for the way they handled the case and former Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned shortly after.

"I never want to go into a church and question the fact -  is my son safe? And nobody should," Ben Hoffman said, "The church is a beautiful place to be and I want it to go back to being that way."

The two other plaintiffs include Twin Cities survivor Jim Keenan, who says he was abused by former priest Thomas Adamson, and survivor Manuel Vega, of California. 

The lawsuit also calls for the Vatican to give law enforcement all information on abuse that happened within the church. The Pope's recent announcement only called for priests and nuns to report abuse to church authorities.

"My goal from here on out is to make sure the end result of this is if a priest is accused of abuse, the police are notified," said Keenan.

St. Paul attorney, Jeff Anderson, held the news conference Tuesday. 

Anderson has been involved in three other lawsuits against the Vatican, but he says this time is different. 

"We've developed a body of evidence that demonstrates all roads lead to Rome," Anderson said, "That evidence has now been assembled in a way it never has."

Archbishop Bernard Hebda released the following statement about the lawsuit:

"Having met with scores of survivors of clergy sex abuse, I understand the anger and frustration at the Church that is apparent in the lawsuit filed today by Jeffrey Anderson. 

On July 20, 2016, the Archdiocese appeared in Ramsey County Court and admitted to wrongdoing in the way it dealt with Curtis Wehmeyer. On that same day, I publicly stated: "We failed--in what we have done and in what we have failed to do. … We failed to give priority to the safety and wellbeing of the children he hurt over the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the Archdiocese." 

I am profoundly sorry for their suffering, and I am very grateful to the Hoffmans for sharing their stories with others and, in one instance, with me. I thank them for their courage. I thank them for being staunch child protection advocates.   

It is my hope that the resolution of the criminal and civil cases, as well as the bankruptcy case, combined with concrete child protection steps and restorative justice actions already underway here, will bring greater healing to this local Church. To further these efforts, the Archdiocese has recently hired a victims/survivors outreach coordinator, a survivor herself of abusive behavior on the part of a priest, to assist us in our outreach efforts. 

I remain grateful to Pope Francis for his recent legislation establishing clear procedures for holding priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals accountable for their actions."

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