Special to The Prairie Catholic
NEW ULM – As part of the ongoing commitment of the Diocese of New Ulm to address sexual abuse by priests and support abuse victims and survivors in healing, the diocese and the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates jointly disclosed on March 29 the names of 16 men whom they have mutually identified as being credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor while they were assigned as priests.
“It is important that we take this step to identify those credibly accused, so that victims and survivors of abuse know they are heard and know that the Church wants to help them in healing,” said Bishop John M. LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm.
“It is also important for Catholics of the Diocese of New Ulm to know that we are addressing these issues with transparency, and with a renewed pledge to uphold and live up to the sacred trust placed in the Church,” he said.
The disclosure of names is the result of consultation and sharing of information between the diocese and Jeff Anderson & Associates that began in 2015. “We needed time to make sure we were accurately identifying the men who we agree have credible accusations against them,” said Bishop LeVoir.
The names and biographical information of the credibly accused men are included on pages 6 and 7 in this edition of The Prairie Catholic. This same information is posted on the diocesan Web site, www.dnu.org.
The disclosure of the names of those credibly accused is an important part of the healing process for many victims and survivors of abuse, in addition to being an outward sign of accountability by the diocese.
“Through disclosure survivors may learn that they are not the only person that their perpetrator has abused, thereby giving them the additional courage and confidence they may need to come forward,” said Kathleen McChesney, former executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child Protection.
“For those who do report their abuse, seeing their offender’s name on a public list affirms their decision to reveal what occurred and reinforces the fact that they were believed by Church leaders,” she said.
“The Diocese of New Ulm is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent about clergy who have abused children,” said Jeff Anderson. “This agreement to release information is an important step in transparency and child protection and safety.
“We will continue to work together to put this commitment into action, and we encourage other possible survivors to step forward.”
Two women who were abused by Fr. David Roney, a deceased priest of the Diocese of New Ulm, shared their stories during a press conference at the Jeff Anderson & Associates law office in St. Paul on March 29. Kim Schmit was abused in 1968 when she was 7 years old. Lori Stoltz was abused between the ages of 11 and 13 in the early 1970s. Both women have settled lawsuits with the diocese.
“Through this, coming forward, I stepped out of the shadows and into the light. I was able to have a voice and through that, finding out there was many, many, many more girls, victims such as myself that also were in the dark, in the shadows and felt shame and guilt,” Schmit said. “They’re now able to, because I stepped forward, to come out of the shadows also.”
“Children don’t have voices but adults do,” Stoltz said. “I started as Jane Doe, I was anonymous, and I guess I got the courage along the way to have my name out there, hoping that maybe if I had a name and I was brave enough, I could maybe show other people that you can be brave too. And it’s scary, it really is scary, but you have support.”
“Survivors show great courage by coming forward and telling their stories,” said Msgr. Douglas Grams, vicar general for the Diocese of New Ulm, who also serves as the bishop’s delegate in matters pertaining to sexual misconduct.
“We continue to urge anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or exploitation by a priest or anyone else involved in Church ministry in the Diocese of New Ulm to immediately report such misconduct to local law enforcement, regardless of when the misconduct occurred. We also encourage victims and survivors who have not yet filed a civil claim to do so,” he said.