2 priests on leave pending review

Published 10:54 am Monday, December 30, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Sunday that two parish priests are taking leaves of absence as a result of an ongoing review of clergy files.

The Rev. Joseph Gallatin, pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota, and the Rev. Mark Wehmann, pastor at St. Boniface in Minneapolis, will remain pastors of their parishes but they won’t perform any public ministry until a final review is finished, the archdiocese said.

Gallatin did not immediately return voicemail or email messages left Sunday. Wehmann didn’t immediately return a message left at the parish office. Neither an email address nor personal phone number for Wehmann could be found.

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Amid mounting criticism over the way church leaders handled allegations of clergy sexual misconduct, Archbishop John Nienstedt in November hired a consulting firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, to begin reviewing the files of all clergy in active ministry.

The archdiocese said Sunday in a statement that as part of this review, Kinsale found Gallatin was accused of one incident of inappropriate conduct with a minor many years ago involving what the church called a “boundary violation.” The archdiocese said in its release that the review team concluded the incident was not criminal.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso on Sunday described a “boundary violation” as “inappropriate behavior that does not constitute either criminal activity or sexual abuse.”

The incident has been referred to police, the archdiocese said in the statement.

The review of Wehmann found several incidents of inappropriate conduct with minors involving boundary violations, the archdiocese said. Police were told about most of these incidents previously and determined criminal charges weren’t warranted, but the archdiocese said it has informed police about remaining incidents, according to the archdiocese’s statement.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese released the names of nearly three dozen priests who were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. Gallatin and Wehmann were not on that list. At the time, church officials said that list was not final, and more names would be released as the review continued.

“If the archdiocese learns of additional credible claims that are substantiated, whether from the review of the clergy files or otherwise, additional announcements will be made and the disclosures will be updated on our website,” Accurso said Sunday an email.

According to the archdiocese, Gallatin has been pastor at the Church of St. Peter since July 2008; Wehmann has been pastor at St. Boniface since July 2013, and until recently he served as a part-time chaplain at Fairview University Hospital in Minneapolis.

Roughly two weeks ago, Nienstedt himself stepped away from public ministry after he was accused of inappropriately touching a boy during a public photo session in 2009. Police are investigating the allegation, which Nienstedt strongly denies.