Minnesota Governor Considers Criminal Probe Into Clerical Sex Abuse

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 3, 2018   

Governor Mark Dayton discusses possibility of attorney general investigation

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SAINT PAUL, Minn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The governor of Minnesota is considering a statewide investigation into Catholic clerical sex abuse.

Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton met with seven county attorneys on Sept. 28 to discuss the prospect of having the state's attorney general launch an investigation into Catholic clerical sex abuse. A statement from Dayton's office said, "The governor has consulted with his legal counsel about the state's role and authority in this matter, and discussions will remain ongoing."

The meeting was a response to demands for a statewide investigation in Minnesota in the wake of August's Pennsylvania grand jury report. That bombshell report documented allegations of sex abuse against 301 Catholic priests and religious across six of the state's eight dioceses.

Minnesota is the 11th state, by Church Militant's count, to move toward launching an investigation into the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal.

Dayton said on Sept. 14, two weeks prior to his meeting with the county attorneys, "My responsibility is to ... work with the attorney general to see what the proper steps are," adding, "But it starts with the county attorneys, which is why we're working with them first."

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Jeff Anderson, an attorney for clerical sex abuse victims based out of Minnesota, called on Gov. Dayton in August to launch an investigation modeled after the Pennsylvania grand jury report. Anderson said in a press conference with alleged abuse survivors on Aug. 22, "They're holding onto their secrets," adding that "more should be done."

In the fallout from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, law enforcement officials around the country have talked about launching similar investigations in their own states.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the release of the grand jury report, said in a New York Times interview in August that attorneys general from around the country had been contacting him looking to do similar investigations in their own states.

During that same interview, Shapiro also mentioned that federal law enforcement had reached out to him.

"I have spoken to a representative of the Department of Justice," Shapiro told his interviewer. "Beyond that, I do not think it would be prudent for me to comment."

Some state attorneys general, such as the Michigan attorney general, the New York attorney general and the Maryland attorney general, have already announced investigations into alleged child sex abuse by Catholic clergy and religious and the cover-ups by bishops and dioceses.

In other states, such as the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the attorney general is pushing for an investigation into the Church but needs approval from the state legislature to do so.

Minnesota is home to six Catholic dioceses, including the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. In May, the archdiocese announced plans to establish a $210 million trust fund for victims of clerical sex abuse. Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a press conference in May that the initiative "avoids further litigation and expense, and that allows the local church to carry on with its mission of spreading and living the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Governor Dayton made national headlines in January 2017 owing to a health scare during his annual "State of the State Address." He collapsed about 45 minutes into his speech to the state legislature. He later revealed that he was battling cancer, but pledged to stay in the post until the end of his term.

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