St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announce criminal charges against the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis during a news conference on June 5, 2015 in St. Paul. 
Jennifer Simonson/Minnesota Public Radio/AP

Minneapolis Archdiocese charged over handling of sex abuse claims

Criminal charges were filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Friday for its handling of a priest who molested children, with a prosecutor saying church leaders “turned a blind eye” to problems with the priest.

Ramsey County prosecutors charged the archdiocese as a corporation with six misdemeanor counts alleging that it failed to protect children. No individual church leaders are named in the criminal complaint.

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The charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, who was eventually sent to prison for molesting two boys. Attorneys for several victims who sued the archdiocese have alleged that church officials waited too long between when they confronted Wehmeyer in 2012 and when they informed police, which they say gave Wehmeyer time to destroy evidence.

Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, later pleaded guilty to molesting two boys and was sentenced to five years in prison.

“It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday. He said the archdiocese “time and time again turned a blind eye” to what was going on with Wehmeyer.

The six counts are all misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of a few thousand dollars. Choi said though penalties may seem light, the charges are important in holding the archdiocese accountable.

Asked whether individuals might be charged, Choi said only that the county’s investigation continues.

A spokesman for the archdiocese didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on the charges.

Minnesota and Roman Catholicism

Minneapolis Archdiocese charged over handling of sex abuse claims