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Catholic Church accused of coercion and cover-up of kiddie porn found on a priest’s computer

BACK in 2004, a computer that belonged to a Catholic priest, Fr Jonathan Shelley, wound up in the possession of a Minnesota man called Joe Ternus.

Termus’s father got the computer from a house he that he owned at that time. It was being used as the rectory and Shelley was the last pastor to live in the house, which was scheduled for demolition.Ternus was given the computer by his dad, and was about to pass it onto his kids. But before doing so, he wanted to see what was on it.

A link on the desktop was the first thing I found – it was a dial-up link for adult content.  My radar went way off.

Porn priest Fr Shelley

Porn priest Fr Shelley

He looked further, searching for photo files.

And boom, there was a ton of stuff.

He said he looked at only a half-dozen of the porno images, but he estimated there were thousands of them.

What I saw was enough to want to get the church involved.

The family, who belonged to the St Jude parish, called an attorney, who contacted the archdiocese. Several days later, a private investigator hired by the archdiocese contacted him.

He told me to bring (the hard drive) to my office that day, and that I WAS going to turn it over.

He said the investigator’s attitude was bullying and that raised his hackles. He also he suspected that no action would be taken against the priest.

I was absolutely enraged at that point that a parish priest had this on a computer in the first place.

Ternus’s concerns over a cover-up were well-founded. The moment the Church got its hands on the computer, it was hidden away in a vault.

The matter came dramatically to light last week when the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis was accused of withholding from police images of child pornography that were allegedly on the priest’s laptop – and immediately the second-in-charge at the archdiocese, Fr Peter Laird, who was its vicar general and moderator of the Curia, resigned.

Laird

Fr Peter Laird

According to a police report released in court during a separate matter involving child-sex charges, Laird appears to have had a role in keeping the information suppressed.

About 2,300 images had been found, according to the police report, but a forensics expert hired by the archdiocese said he was:

Instructed to view only some of the (computer’s) contents.

Shelley was pastor at St John the Baptist Church in Hugo, Minnesota until mid-2012, when he was placed on sabbatical, then on leave a few months later.

The archdiocese for several years continued to assign him to parish duties that put him around children. Last week police said Shelley was not likely to be charged with a crime because evidence no longer exists. The report said police were told the computer was destroyed, and additional images appear to have gone missing.

In resigning, Laird said:

I am hopeful that my decision to step aside at this time, along with the formation of a new task force, can help repair the trust of many, especially the victims of abuse.

A statement from the archdiocese said Laird’s resignation:

Was his decision alone. He did nothing improper.

Laird will stay on with the archdiocese in various roles.

Fr Kevin McDonough, then vicar general, first gave the order to place the computer and its contents in a vault,  police said. They added that the official who was given that order, Chancellor Jennifer Haselberger, balked at it and later resigned.

St Paul police got involved after Haselberger said she resigned as chancellor for canonical affairs because the Church was not acting on her concerns regarding Shelley and another priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, who was sentenced to prison this year on child pornography and child sex abuse charges.

Haselberger told police she had seen an investigator’s report that child porn images were on Shelley’s hard drive. The images included those of a young boy performing oral sex on another male.

But discs turned over to police contained only adult pornography.

However, Ternus suddenly remembered last week that he had copied files from Shelley’s hard drive and put them in his safe – and last Friday, nine years after he was ordered to turn the computer over to the church, Joe Ternus handed over the evidence to St Paul police.

I called Sgt (William) Gillet, and he got back to me today, and he came up and took possession of those this afternoon.

Police spokesman Howie Padilla confirmed that:

An individual did give us new information.

See also this report.

17 Responses to “Catholic Church accused of coercion and cover-up of kiddie porn found on a priest’s computer”

  1. Broga says:

    The RC hierarchy and priests are both shameless and blatant in their determination to cover up their paedophilic activities and interests. How did he manage to find the time to collect 2,300 images? How did he find the time to view them?

    These paedophile priests are devoid of any moral sense. Whatever their perverted needs would not supposed pillars of community rectitude have some restraint when considering the damage to the children being viewed. Meanwhile, Frankie is bleating that the RC Church is needed as a moral exemplar to preserve the essential values of Christianity.

  2. charlie says:

    No surprise that the RCC did and continues to do all it can to suppress the truth about abusive/pedophile priests and higher up types in their vile gang.
    Of course the kiddie porn was scrubbed by them. As to that private investigator demanding the hard drive, some of us would have said “no way pal, this goes to the police.” But then not all of us buy into the holly buy-bull or any religion at all.
    I am convinced that organized religion is the most vile thing we humans have ever devised. Private beliefs/religion if you will are just that, private and few who hold private beliefs demand others believe the same. Myself, I ask for zero followers. I have never wanted to be a “leader” as NCO school taught me in the USMC, a good leader has a certain responsibility for his/her troops/followers. I have more than enough trouble being responsible for myself of late. If you do follow me, you do so at your own risk and I assume NO responsibilities for you. In short, follow me if you wish, but I may not know where I am going, so do not blame me if you don’t like where I/we end up at.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Oh, no; it’s foul-mouthed mayor, Larry “It’s been a fookin’ pleasure” Vaughn, again!

    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/47198000/jpg/_47198860_chubby_brown.jpg

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    An isolated incident, like all the others.

    I wonder what it would take for either a majority of people or a minority weilding power to say ‘enough’ and hold the RC accountable. Apparently maintaining a decades-old clergy / child rape syndicate isn’t such a tipping point.

    http://ovo127.com/2009/08/02/trevor-blake-an-open-letter-to-amnesty-international/

  5. lucy 1 says:

    Just a small point. I am not sure Kiddie Porn is the best descriptor. Too cosy, too normalising.

    On the main subject, how can these people look in the mirror without flinching? How can they be such vicious lying bastards? Have they had a shame by-pass?

  6. Broga says:

    Why are their so many paedo priests? I suggest that for centuries the safest, most comfortable and least likely to be challenged job for a paedo lusting after children was, and seemingly still is, priest. Where else offers such protection? Where else are politicians so reluctant to hold these particular criminals to account?

    The supreme irony, certainly in the UK, is that far from exposing and eradicating this vile belief system the tax payer is forced to fund its schools. And those who object are very quickly dismissed as militant/aggressive/neo (or whatever) atheists. How much was said at any of the recent Party Conferences – really sub show business performances – about religious paedophilia?

  7. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @Trevor Blake: Did Amnesty International ever get back to you? I saw 2 updates to your letter but neither was about any action that AA might have taken.

    The really sad part about this report is that it is no longer news, it’s just another report in a long line of reports about rcc cover ups, i.e. nothing has changed and this criminal outfit carries on as it always has done.

  8. mike ference says:

    They are all a bunch of dysfunctional sex freaks. Not one of them cares about the victims.

  9. tina says:

    so common, so sad, Catholics need to protect their kids and not trust a one of them with their children or families.. it IS that ugly..

  10. gloria. sullivan says:

    It is inherent in these people. When you ask” how “? There never has been the idea of a blessing from GOD for these fellows. It’s a job, like a Dr. LAWYER…etc. I know because I have met so many of them. They don’t even hesitate to tell you. it’s just a job! ONE priest I met at our Marina who lived on his sailboat said he had to go on retreat and had to bring a Roman Brivary and had no idea what it was.I about died.That’s when he told me about all his fellow priests…This was in 2001. We left after many things happened in San Diego when Fr. Paul. Shanley got arrested for trying to abduct a boy from a playground where he volunteered to the ( SDPD) to watch.

  11. chrsbol says:

    However, Ternus suddenly remembered last week that he had copied files from Shelley’s hard drive and put them in his safe – and last Friday, nine years after he was ordered to turn the computer over to the church, Joe Ternus handed over the evidence to St Paul police.

    Nine years! This guy was taking a chance having that sort of material tucked away.There’s something odd if you suddenly remember that there’s a collection of porn in your safe?

  12. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: Dear me, bj, I hope you are not becoming cynical about the RC Church. The diocese explained that “it was a pure slip of the tongue.” Of course it was.

    Would it have been a pure slip of the tongue if there had not been such an outraged reaction?

  13. Broga says:

    @chrsbol: Seems to be that very little is totally private in the internet age and that which is requires an expertise that few of us possess. This came to mind yesterday when my wife took her laptop in to a computer expert for various adjustments.

    I sat there watching as he had an initial look and conjured up all kinds of stuff I didn’t know you could. He will keep the machine for a few days. If there were any vile paedo material I can’t see how he wouldn’t view it and presumably tell the cops. Maybe that is how so many prominent people get caught.

  14. chrsbol says:

    @Broga. Yes agreed, but the point I was trying to make was the fact that he had these files in his safe for nine years. How big is the safe? How many times does he open it and how much other stuff is in there? Did he never come across it when looking for other things? Just seems strange to me.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Maybe he had been involved in a car accident (as in the following case, which was highlighted here last year).

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/catholic-priest-clerics-are-often-seduced-by-child-sex-abuse-victims-28787205.html

    Maybe the Catholic Church IS a car accident.