Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Haselberger Affidavit: Attempt to Have Father Tegeder Declared Disabled for Opposing Archbishop's Campaign Against Marriage Equality, While Known Threat to Minors, Father Wehmeyer, Remained in Ministry

There's a significant detail tucked away in Jennifer Haselberger's lengthy affidavit (significant to me, if to no one else) that I'd like to bring to readers' attention: a section of the affidavit (§ 72) directly counters a claim made by Archbishop Nienstedt's attorney in Nienstedt's deposition that the archbishop does not have the power to declare a priest disabled. Haselberger notes that, after his attorney made this claim, Nienstedt himself added that he didn't understand questions directed to him about his prerogative as archbishop to declare a priest disabled.

Haselberger states flatly that "the Archbishop was in error" about this matter of fact, and that he had every reason to understand full well that declaring a priest disabled is "the exclusive prerogative of the Archbishop." He would have known this, she asserts, because she herself had made this point in two memos to him between 2010 and 2011. 

The subject of those memos? The discussion was not about, as one might imagine, having a pedophile priest known to be abusing minors declared disabled, so that he could be removed from ministry.

Haselberger states that she wrote Nienstedt at the prompting of the former vicar general and moderator of the curia of the archdiocese, Father Peter Laird, who resigned that position last October when it was reported by Minnesota NPR that Laird had information about the abuse of minors by fellow priest Curtis Wehmeyer, and did not turn this information over to criminal authorities. Haselberger's affidavit says that Laird prompted her to write Nienstedt because he 

wanted the Archbishop to declare Father Michael Tegeder disabled as a means of silencing his opposition to the Archbishop's efforts to promote a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Not Wehmeyer, who he knew was abusing children. Father Laird, the archdiocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia did not want Archbishop Nienstedt to have Father Curtis Wehmeyer declared disabled.

It was Father Michael Tegeder whom he wanted the archbishop to have declared disabled, because Tegeder was publicly challenging Nienstedt's promotion (to the tune of at least $650,000) of an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, though Minnesota already had a law on the books doing just that. As I noted here in October 2010, Father Tegeder wrote a public letter that month characterizing the attack on gay citizens of the state by the state's Catholic bishops under Nienstedt's leadership as scandalous, and he continued speaking out until Minnesota voters decisively rejected the attempt to inscribe anti-gay prejudice in the state constitution. 

It was not a priest known to be abusing minors that some archdiocesan officials wanted to declare disabled in 2010-2011. It was Father Michael Tegeder, a priest speaking openly in defense of the human rights of gay citizens of the state of Minnesota as the Catholic bishops of the state attacked those citizens, whom some archdiocesan officials wanted to muzzle by having him declared disabled.

Father Wehmeyer remained in active ministry up to June 21, 2012, the month in which he was arrested after a mother reported that he had sexually molested her 12-year-old son in the summer of 2010. He was sentenced to five years in prison in February 2013 on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.

But as Madeleine Baran reports for Minnesota NPR, archdiocesan officials had known for, well, years about Wehmeyer's propensities, and soon after she arrived as the archdiocesan canon expert in 2008, Jennifer Haselberger saw notations in Wehmeyer's files that he had a sexual addiction problem and that archdiocesan officials knew of it. 

She alerted Nienstedt to all of this and thought it would result in action to take Wehmeyer out of ministry. Nienstedt responded by appointing Wehmeyer pastor of Blessed Sacrament and Saint Thomas the Apostle parish in 2009.

Where he then abused the 12-year-old boy and targeted that boy's 14-year-old brother . . . .

Not Wehmeyer, a known threat to young people, but Tegeder, because he was defending gay human beings against abuse. It was not Wehmeyer whom Laird wanted to have declared disabled. It was Tegeder.

This story speaks volumes about a very deep sickness in the soul of contemporary Catholicism, does it not?

(AP now has a story circulating about this — see CBS Local (for Minnesota), and KAAL t.v. for ABC.

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