St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith: Archdiocese has been uncooperative with investigations

St. Paul police went to the press today to help force the church into speaking with his investigators
St. Paul police went to the press today to help force the church into speaking with his investigators

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith says that, despite the claims of church officials, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has not fully cooperated with sexual abuse investigations.

In one instance, Smith told reporters today, the archdiocese rebuffed his request to speak directly to the Rev. Kevin McDonough, a former Minnesota Senate chaplain who investigated claims against his fellow priests.

"We have, through written and verbal requests, made clear our desire to speak to individuals connected with the archdiocese and we've been told, 'No,'" he said. "In order for us to bring these cases to the next step in the process...we again now publicly call upon those individuals to speak with us."

SEE ALSO: Archbishop John Nienstedt steps aside amid allegation he touched boy's buttocks

A spokesman for the archdiocese did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Smith said he recently sent a letter requesting to speak with other clergymen who were involved with internal investigations. A meeting is scheduled tomorrow with a canon attorney, he said, to talk about it further.

When a reporter asked the chief why he hadn't simply obtained a search warrant -- implying that a double standard was at work for a religious institution -- Smith asserted that there wasn't probable cause to go barging through Cathedral doors.

"To do that, you've got to be able to talk to people," he said, "and we haven't been able to do that so far."

One wonders why the word of multiple victims isn't enough, but Smith ended the press conference after only a few questions. Before he did, though, he addressed the question of a double standard head-on: "It is law enforcements job to investigate all allegations of criminal behavior regardless of who, institution or anything else, and that's exactly what we have been doing and exactly what we will continue to do."

News of the archdiocese's intransigence -- as unsurprising as that may be -- came on the heels today of Archbishop John Nienstedt's announcement that he was stepping down amid an allegation that he touched a boy's butt during a photo shoot in 2009. He's the latest in a long line of disgraced holy men. Although he doesn't know the name of his accuser, he defended himself in an open letter:

I normally stand for those photos with one hand on my crozier (staff) and the other either on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed or on my pallium (the short stole), which hangs from my chest. I do that deliberately and there are hundreds of photographs to verify that fact.

Nienstedt says he learned of the allegation "this past weekend." It's unclear whether he knew about it going into Sunday's homily in Edina, where he apologized for not having done more to root out abusers but pleaded ignorance.

His temporary successor is Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, who MPR notes took part in discussions about whether or not to approach police with an allegation that the Rev. Jon Shelley possessed child pornography on his computer. In the end, they stayed quiet.

Chief Smith declined to answer questions about the allegation facing Nienstedt, leaning on the fact that the investigation was only 24 hours old. Police say the allegation was brought to their attention at 2 p.m. Monday.

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

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