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Minnesota archdiocese won’t face charges in abuse case

ST. PAUL — Prosecutors in Minnesota declined Wednesday to charge leaders of the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese over their handling of an abusive priest, but they said the archdiocese needs to do better in its reporting of abuse claims.

Ramsey County prosecutor John Choi said there was insufficient evidence to show church officials failed to properly report suspicions of abuse by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a St. Paul priest accused in 2012 of molesting two brothers.

Still, he said, investigations into other matters surrounding allegations of abuse by priests in the archdiocese are ongoing.

In a separate case, Washington County prosecutors said they would not charge another archdiocesan priest, the Rev. Jon Shelley, who had been accused of possessing child pornography.

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The Wehmeyer and Shelley cases were among several that raised questions about the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases after a church insider went public with her concerns. Internal documents showed that church leaders knew Wehmeyer had issues with sexual misconduct, including at least two solicitations of men for sex, before he was promoted to lead Church of the Blessed Sacrament in 2009.

Archbishop John Nienstedt apologized last fall for his handling of Wehmeyer, saying he didn’t suspect he was a threat to children. Wehmeyer is now serving a five-year sentence.

In a statement Wednesday, the archdiocese said it is grateful for the investigation, and it continues to cooperate with authorities.

As the scandal around the archdiocese grew last fall, Nienstedt appointed a task force to examine church policies on abusive priests and ordered an external review of all priest files. He has also apologized to the archdiocese’s more than 800,000 Catholics. Nienstedt himself has been accused of improperly touching a boy, a claim he vehemently denied.

Despite those moves, St. Paul police earlier complained of foot-dragging by archdiocese officials in investigations.

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Associated Press