Criminal charges were filed today against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for its handling of a priest who molested children, with a prosecutor saying church leaders "turned a blind eye" to the abuse. Ramsey County prosecutors charged the archdiocese as a corporation with six gross misdemeanor counts alleging that it failed to protect children. No individual church leaders were charged. The charges stem from the archdiocese's handling of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul who was eventually sent to prison for molesting two boys. Prosecutors say church leaders failed to respond to "numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct" by Wehmeyer from the time he entered seminary until he was removed from the priesthood in 2015.
"It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well," says Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. A spokesman for the archdiocese didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on the charges. The six counts are punishable by a fine of a few thousand dollars. Still, Choi said the charges are important in holding the archdiocese accountable. Asked whether any individuals might be charged, Choi would only say that the county's investigation was ongoing. Wehmeyer, who pleaded guilty to molesting two brothers, is serving five years in prison. Another prosecution, including an alleged teenage victim in western Wisconsin, is still pending. (More priest sex abuse stories.)