A small support group representing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) handed out leaflets at a Catholic church in Crookston on Sunday urging anyone who has been a victim to seek out help from independent sources.
Holding signs that read “transparency” and “healing” at the entrance to The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parking lot, SNAP members offered leaflets to parishioners as they drove in to attend a morning mass.
The group is calling for the bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, the Rev. Michael Hoeppner, to “permanently post the names of all proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests on church and parish websites,” the leaflet stated.
SNAP members “want victims to come forward … especially because a legal ‘window’ will close in 2016, barring many child sex abuse victims from seeking justice and exposing wrongdoers in court,” according to the leaflet.
“We want (Hoeppner) to be more part of the healing process, by taking away some of the fear, guilt and shame” that victims of childhood sexual abuse suffer, said Robin Grimm, of Bemidji, who distributed leaflets.
She was one of the original group that filed a lawsuit against the Rev. James Porter in the mid-1990s for sexually abusing her as a child in his parish, St. Philip’s Catholic Church, at Bemidji, she said.
She was “Jane Doe 4” in legal documents regarding that suit, she said.
Verne Wagner, Duluth, Minn., who also distributed leaflets, said, “This diocese is doing the minimum about helping people who have been abused.”
He said his group wants the Crookston Diocese to make public the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of all child-molesting clerics who are or have been in Crookston, whether they are living or deceased.
Wagner said the church’s victim assistance hotline is “untrustworthy”.
“It’s been proven that they got information and not acted on it.”
Victims should contact law enforcement officials instead, he said.
Robin Grimm’s sister, Linda Carroll of Aitkin, Minn., was the first female to publically speak about the abuse she endured from Porter, Robin Grimm said.
Her brother, Jim Grimm of Bemidji, who also participated in leaflet distribution in Crookston on Sunday, was “brutalized” by Porter, she said.
Jim Grimm was a 12-year-old altar boy at St. Philip’s Catholic Church from 1969 to 1970 in Bemidji when Porter began abusing him, he said.
Altogether, Porter abused more than 200 victims, he said.
“Changes must be made to protect kids, so what happened to us doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
In January, the Diocese of Crookston released a list of six priests who had credible accusations of sexual abuse made against them in the past. Five of the priests were dead and their alleged abuse occurred decades ago, the Herald reported at the time.
The names had been available for several years in court documents and had been mentioned in news stories over the years, but release of the names by the diocese marked a significant change in policy for the diocese.
Since the exposure of cover-ups by the Catholic Church and the conviction of pedophile priests, the church has not done enough to help victims, Jim Grimm said. “A lot of promises were made that haven’t come to pass.”
“There’s a misconception, now that (the abuse) has been made public, people think that it’s over,” he said. “It’s still happening.”
Calls made to the Crookston Diocese office on Saturday and Sunday seeking comment were not returned as of late Sunday afternoon.