Archbishop John Nienstedt to (finally) release names of accused priests [UPDATE]

John Nienstedt, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was the subject of our June 20, 2012, cover story.
John Nienstedt, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was the subject of our June 20, 2012, cover story.

It took the arm of the law to force the hand of God.

A Ramsey County judge today ordered that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona release the names, age and parishes of 46 men -- priests and one member of a religious order -- who've been credibly accused of sexually abusing children by Dec. 17.

SEE ALSO: Archbishop John Nienstedt to release names of some abusive priests

Last month, Archbishop John Nienstedt promised to release some names but said he was waiting on permission from the court. In truth, he needed permission from no one, and some wondered whether he was stalling to allow offenders time to move outside the area.

Thirty-three of the names to be released soon come from a list compiled in 2004 by the archdiocese, although WCCO notes that the allegations against at least three men have not been substantiated by church officials.

They have until Jan. 6 to also release the names of any priests who've been credibly accused since 2004. Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on this morning's hearing but said a statement to be released later will speak for itself.

However, he did have this to say on the archdiocese website on Nov. 22:

Sharing information about clergy who have substantiated claims of sexually abusing minors is a critical element of Archbishop Nienstedt's commitment to strengthening archdiocesan procedures so that victims can begin to heal and to ensure the safety of minors in our care.

A statement from the Diocese of Winona is also on the way.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney who has been petitioning for the release of these names for years, described today as "an important and historic day for child safety." He was joined in court by several survivors of abuse who, Finnegan said, have been on a "quest to make sure no other kids are harmed."

::: UPDATE :::

In the past, church officials claimed to have opened their own investigation. Now they say they will release only the names of priests who have credible allegations against them. MPR reports today that the archdiocese opposes the release of four names on the initial list of 33, and "the judge left open the possibility that those names could be withheld if the archdiocese provides a convincing explanation."

According to the archdiocese, the claims of sexual abuse brought against three men could not be substantiated and another never served one of its parishes.

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to [email protected]

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