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Associated Press , Published October 29 2013

Investigators access to clergy abuse files limited

ST. PAUL — A task force charged with independently investigating clergy sexual misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will have limited access to information about priests.

Archbishop John Nienstedt, who appointed the Rev. Reginald Whitt to create the task force, has characterized the panel's work as an independent review and said the task force would have "unprecedented authority to examine any and all issues associated with clergy sexual abuse."

However, Whitt told clergy in an Oct. 21 letter that he will control the panel's access to information, Minnesota Public Radio reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/HsKwyT ).

"Access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the Task Force to be able to make an informed decision with respect to their policy review," he wrote.

MPR said Whitt's letter appears to contradict Nienstedt's characterization of the task force as independent, and raises the question of how the task force will be able to make fully informed decisions without access to all information.

The archdiocese responded with a statement promising the task force "will provide a truly independent analysis from a group of outside and impartial experts to help tell how we can do better."

The archdiocese has been under scrutiny since September, following news reports that Nienstedt and other church leaders failed to warn parishioners of a priest's sexual misconduct, did not turn over possible child pornography to police for nine years, and gave special payments to offending priests including pedophiles. Nienstedt created the task force in response to growing concerns by parishioners.

Noting that many priests "may be anxious about your right to privacy and a good reputation" if their files become public, Whitt wrote that the task force will involve three separate committees, none of which will have access to all information or be able to enact any new policies without Nienstedt's approval. He said task force members will have to sign confidentiality agreements. The task force is separate from Nienstedt's announcement last week that he will hire an outside firm to "review all clergy files."

Whitt said he will publish task force findings and recommendations.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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