A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to compel the bishop of New Ulm, Minn., to become the latest and final diocese in the state to disclose its list of known priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children.
The lawsuit is brought by two plaintiff, Doe 37 and Doe 38, who claim they were sexually abused by Fr. Michael Skoblik between 1967 and 1971 when they were altar servers at St. Joseph Parish in Silver Lake, Minn.
Attorney Jeff Anderson said at a press conference that Skoblik, who died in 1989, is believed one of at least 12 priests the New Ulm diocese listed for the 2004 John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on clergy sex abuse. In August his firm released eight names of priests, including Skoblik, accused of sexual misconduct that emerged from a January deposition of Fr. Francis Garvey, director of priest personnel in the early 2000s.
Anderson characterized the lawsuit as a public invitation to Bishop John LeVoir of the rural southwestern Minnesota diocese to follow the lead of fellow bishops in the state in disclosing the names of credibly accused priests.
“We urge Bishop LeVoir and the officials of the diocese in New Ulm to get in the game, to get serious about child protection, and to get serious about the truth,” Anderson told reporters at his St. Paul offices.
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When reached Wednesday afternoon, the New Ulm diocese said no one was available to comment at that time. Following the August release of eight names, the diocese told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that seven of the priests were deceased and the other had left the priesthood more than 30 years ago.
The suit is the seventh attempt to try to force the diocese to release its list, Anderson said, and like past attempts, includes a public nuisance claim. He and fellow attorney Mike Finnegan told reporters they believe Ramsey County Judge John van de North’s Sept. 3 ruling -- in which he allowed a public nuisance claim against the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese to proceed to trial -- could lead to a different outcome this time in New Ulm.
Anderson added that as metropolitan of the region’s ecclesiastical province St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, who originally compiled the list while bishop of New Ulm (2001-2007), could encourage LeVoir to release the names, as well.
In December Nienstedt and the Twin Cities archdiocese made public 30 credibly accused priests and has since added names uncovered by a review of clergy files by an outside firm. That same month the Duluth diocese and St. John’s Abbey disclosed separate lists of credibly accused priests.
Both the Crookston and St. Cloud dioceses followed suit in January, as did the Winona diocese in late June when it released abuse summaries surrounding 13 priests.
[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]