Five men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were minors are planning to sue the Vatican and are demanding the names of thousands of predator priests they claim have been kept secret by the Holy See.
In a Monday news release announcing the lawsuit, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said he wants to show that the Vatican tried to cover up actions by top church officials including former St. Paul Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors and adults and defrocked by Pope Francis. The lawsuit, which will be filed Tuesday, seeks the release of 3,400 names of purportedly abusive priests.
The plaintiffs include three brothers who were abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer as recently as 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wehmeyer pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct and child pornography in connection with his contact with two of the boys, who were 12 and 14.
Wehmeyer’s arrest led prosecutors to file criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for failing to protect children. It also led to the forced resignation of Nienstedt, who came under fire for his handling of Wehmeyer’s case.
Internal church documents show that church leaders knew Wehmeyer had engaged in sexual misconduct when they promoted him to lead The Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2009. The behavior included at least two occasions when Wehmeyer solicited men for sex. Yet, church leaders did not warn parishioners about his past.
An internal July 2014 church memo raised concerns that Nienstedt’s “social relationship” with Wehmeyer had clouded his judgment. And while Nienstedt remains in good standing, his successor has forbidden him from exercising public ministry in his archdiocese.
Messages left with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the papal nuncio in Washington, D.C. were not immediately returned Monday. An email sent to Nienstedt was not immediately returned.
According to the news release, the lawsuit will call for the release of personnel files of those accused of abuse, as well as the names of top church officials who are accused of sexual abuse and whose identities are known only to the Vatican.
The other plaintiffs are, Manuel Vega, a California man who says he was abused by a priest in Los Angeles, and James Keenan, who says he was sexually abused by a priest in Minnesota.