WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) - In a move some are calling 'unprecedented,' the Catholic Diocese of Winona is releasing details of years of sexual abuse by priests in its churches.
Back in December, courts ordered the diocese to release the names of 14 priests accused of sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s. More than six months later, the diocese is now voluntarily sharing the details behind those accusations.
"We are establishing and taking back, we hope, our credibility," said Bishop John Quinn.
The reports show most accusations stemmed from the 1970s and 80s. In one case, the report shows a Winona priest was accused 36 different times of sexually abusing a child. In a handful of cases, priests were repeatedly placed in treatment after accusations surfaced - but they returned to the diocese just months later under a different position or parish.
"In nearly all the cases, the priests who were returned to ministry after treatment were placed back into parishes based on the widespread belief that they could be rehabilated," said Nelle Moriarty, chairperson of the Diocese of Winona Review Board. "Today as a society, we now know that rehabilitation as a sxual offender is most likely not possible."
"The information released is painfully heartbreaking," Quinna said at a press conference Monday. "It is important we never forget our past. It is important we understand what was done and why, so we can make a different present and future."
Of the 13 priests accused, 9 have since died, 2 have been laicized - or removed from priesthood - and 2 are pending laicization.
"There isn't a single priest serving in the Diocese of Winona who has been credibly accused of child sexual abuse," Quinn said.
The Diocese also released the name of a 14th priest, who was the latest church official to be accused of sexual abuse. Father Leo Koppala was charged and convicted of criminal sexual conduct this year, and was deported to India in May.
The Diocese says now protocols are in place to ensure transparency comes first.
"Anyone who contacts me or contracts our victim assistance coordinator, we follow through.
nothing will be hidden or dismissed. if it deals with a minor, it goes immediately to law enforcement."
While other churches have voluntarily released the names of priests involved in past sexual assaults, Winona says it is the first diocese to voluntarily share details of the cases. Church officials say this is just the first step in turning the page and rebuilding trust.
"Give me the chance, and all of our parishes and all of our schools and institutions, to prove that we say we're doing, we're doing," Quinn said.
View each priest's report summary here.
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