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2 former Austin priests among 14 accused of sexual abuse

Published 10:19am Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pacelli President isn’t aware of any sexual abuse reports filed while priests were there

The Diocese of Winona released on Monday a list of 14 priests, including two former Austin priests, accused of sexually abusing minors. Most of the priests were not previously known by the public or local churchgoers to have faced such allegations.

The list also includes two priests who served in Albert Lea, one who served in Brownsdale, one in Hayfield, one in New Richland and one in Wells.

The southeastern Minnesota diocese filed the list in Ramsey County District Court on Monday, a day before the deadline set by a Ramsey County judge.

Of the 14 priests identified by the Diocese of Winona, nine are dead. Of the five still living, the diocese says one has been removed from priesthood. Three are in the process of being removed, and one is on administrative leave pending criminal proceedings in Faribault County.

The list released Monday includes priests who the diocese considers to be credibly accused.

Joel Hennesy, diocese director of communications, was not sure if and when information on individual case files would be available. The diocese is not releasing detailed information in that regard.

“Unfortunately, we aren’t able to release any detailed information about the individual files just because of the ongoing litigation,” Hennesy said.

The two former Austin priests are:

— Louis G Cook, who was ordained in 1958, served at Austin’s Queen of Angels Catholic Church in 1970, and Austin’s St. Augustine Church in 2000, according to the diocese. He died in November 2004 at 80 years old.

— Jack L. Krough, 64, was ordained in 1976 and began serving at Austin’s St. Augustine Church and Pacelli Catholic Schools in June 1976. He also served at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Austin and Brownsdale’s Our Lady of Loretto in 1996. His ministerial privileges were suspended in June of 2002 indefinitely. Laicization, or the process of permanently removing his ministerial privileges, is pending. Krough lives in Barron, Wis.

Pacelli High School President Jim Hamburge is unaware of any sexual abuse reports that may have been filed while priests were serving at Pacelli. However, he was not with the school at the time either priest was in Austin, and he added any reports would be filed with the Diocese of Winona and that Pacelli or St. Augustine Church would not have that information. He, St. Augustine’s Father Jim Steffes and a member of Pacelli’s board of trustees deferred comments to the Diocese of Winona.

Other former priests from the area include:

— John R. Feiten, ordained in 1948, served at Sacred Heart in Hayfield in 1990. He retired from ministry in 2000, and he died in July 2001. He was 77.

— Thomas Adamson, now 80, who served a stint at St. Theodore Catholic Church in Albert Lea in the 1960s, faces a civil lawsuit in Ramsey County over allegations of sexual abuse. He was also released on the list released last week of accused priests by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Adamson served in Albert Lea’s St. Theodore Catholic Church parish in 1967 and 1968, at which time he was also chaplain of Lea College, an institution of higher learning on the west side of Albert Lea that shut down in 1973. He was removed from the ministry in 1985 and lives in Rochester.

— William D. Curtis was assigned to Albert Lea’s St. Theodore parish in August 1968, where he served until receiving a new assignment at St. Teresa in Mapleton, Minn., in January 1976.

His ministerial privileges were suspended in July 1990 and he died in April 2001. He was 81.

— Ferdinand L. Kaiser served in the All Saints parish in New Richland starting Dec. 3, 1952, until he received a new assignment in April 1967 in Iosco, Minn.

He voluntarily resigned in March 1968 and died in Jan. 1973 at the age of 62.

— Leland J. Smith, 86, served at the St. Casimir parish in Wells, which includes both a church and a school, starting in August 1960. After a three-year stint, he was reassigned in 1963 to Avoca and Lake Wilson, Minn.

His ministerial privileges were indefinitely suspended in 1994, and he resides in Winona.

It’s the latest such disclosure as Catholic bishops in Minnesota face ongoing legal pressure after years of keeping the names secret. Attorneys for abuse victims had sought the public disclosure of the list, saying it was in the interest of public safety. Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis named 34 priests accused of abuse under the same judicial order.

“The people who have been suffering in secrecy, often blaming themselves, this gives them permission to come forward and to get help,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney from a St. Paul law firm representing some of the alleged victims.

He said attorneys would continue to seek the release of further information about the priests on the lists, particularly files kept by church leaders regarding when they knew of allegations and how they handled them.

A handful of new victims have already come forward since the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese released its list earlier this month. Archbishop John Nienstedt has said that from now on, substantiated claims of abuse will be disclosed on the archdiocese website.

Shannon Hanzel, a retired Winona high school teacher who has worked with activists to pressure local church leaders to open up about abuse claims, urged her fellow Catholics on Monday to join in efforts to change the church from within. She reached out in particular to those who attended churches that appeared on the list.

“It’s going to be very difficult, it’s going to be very painful for lifelong Catholics who have had such love for the church and such respect for the clergy,” Hanzel said. “It’s hard to leave that comfort zone, but something has to be done.”

—Sarah Stultz contributed to this report.


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