Files released of Winona area priests with child sex abuse allegations

Diocese of Winona releases statement from Bishop Quinn

New documents were released Tuesday morning pertaining to the 14 priests from the Catholic Diocese of Winona who have been accused of child sexual abuse.

The child sexual abuse accusations date all the way back to the 1960s. Of the 14 priests accused, nine have died, three have been defrocked, or removed from priesthood, one is pending removal and one has been deported to India.

Sexual abuse survivors, attorney Jeff Anderson and a former priest and advocate, Patrick J. Wall, gathered in Rochester to release the files of the 14 priests.

One victim said although some may never be punished, what they have done lives on and he wants to make sure it ends here.

“Why do I need to be here? Because this needs to stop,” said Paul Hotchkiss, a victim of child sexual abuse by a priest in the Diocese of Winona.

Hotchkiss said he was sexually abused in the mid-1970s.

“I was sexually assaulted from Adamson,” said Hotchkiss.

At the time, Hotchkiss said, Thomas Adamson was arrested, but eventually the case disappeared.

“It’s been covered up since it happened to me. He was arrested and covered up after it,” said Hotchkiss.

But Hotchkiss said he isn’t going to let it be covered up anymore.

“No more children need to be hurt, that’s why I am here,” said Hotchkiss.

The attorney, Jeff Anderson, released new documents detailing how the bishops and top officials dealt with the accusations at the time. In each of the files, Anderson said there is a pattern.

“That pattern demonstrated in each of those files, some 17,000 pages, that each bishop and each top official from 1950 to the present made conscious choices to conceal the crimes against the children and to protect the offenders,” said Anderson.

By releasing the documents, Anderson and his team hope cases that involve child sexual abuse are no longer handled by church officials.

“So that the sexual abuse team of the diocese is not made up of the bishop, of the vicar general, of the canon lawyer and the civil lawyer who are hired internally and in command of the bishop,” said Patrick Wall, a former priest and victim advocate.

“As long as they handle these problems internally, it will persist,” said Anderson.

In a statement, the current bishop of Winona, Rev. John Quinn, wrote, “The Diocese of Winona immediately discloses all reports of child sexual abuse to law enforcement.”

However, Anderson and Hotchkiss believe more needs to be done.

“Just saying they are reporting to the police, and reporting to the police is not enough, they have to come clean with all these secrets about all these crimes and all these offenders,” said Anderson.

“It’s got to be over. These people can’t be allowed to do this over and over. They are monsters,” said Hotchkiss.

Click here if you would like to view the documents released on Tuesday pertaining to the 14 accused priests.

Because the Diocese of Winona has been the target of many lawsuits by victims accusing the priests of sexual abuse, Bishop Quinn wrote in a letter to the Vatican that the diocese may have to file bankruptcy. A final decision has not been made yet because officials are not sure how many lawsuits it could face in the future.

Here’s the statement released from Bishop Quinnon on Tuesday:

“Today, the files of fourteen (14) credibly accused priests and former priests of the Diocese of Winona were publically released. On June 23, 2014, the Diocese of Winona voluntarily released summaries of each of the files that have been publically disclosed today. Nearly all of the child sexual abuse committed by clergy occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Of the fourteen priests who have sexually abused minors, nine (9) priests are deceased, three (3) priests have been laicized, one (1) has laicization proceedings pending and one (1) priest has been deported to Nellore, India with proceedings pending in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No priests, currently in active ministry within in the Diocese of Winona, have had credible accusations of child sexual abuse.

“The documents released today are redacted to protect the identity and information regarding the survivor of abuse. Redactions have not been made to conceal the abuser or the nature of the abuse. Other redactions are made to comply with legal restrictions and requirements, including removal of mental health or medical information from public dissemination.

“The details of the sexual abuse contained in the files are painful reminders of the significant impact that sexual abuse has on the survivors of child sexual abuse. Since the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young Persons in 2002, the Diocese of Winona has worked diligently in ensuring compliance with the Charter. The Diocese of Winona has developed programming and requires training of all staff and volunteers associated with our parishes and schools to ensure the protection of our children. The Diocese of Winona immediately discloses all reports of child sexual abuse to law enforcement and ensures compliance with mandatory reporting requirements for all of its priests and teachers within the Diocese of Winona.

“The Diocese of Winona Clergy Review Board is an independent board of lay persons who review issues regarding fitness of priests for ministry and safety of children. The review board examines findings from investigations and makes recommendations to the Bishop to ensure that best practices are being used to protect the children entrusted to our care.

“The Diocese of Winona is committed to providing support and healing to those who have been tragically abused by clergy. We encourage anyone that has been abused recently or in the past to come forward and report the abuse to civil authorities.”