Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Date: Monday, November 11, 2013
Source: Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Clarence Vavra, a priest ordained in 1965, was removed from ministry in 2003. We take extremely seriously the concerns and questions about Vavra’s crimes against minors and the archdiocese’s handling of them.
In 1995, Vavra self-reported that he engaged in sexual contact with several young boys and a teenage boy during the time when he worked on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in approximately 1975. Vavra was not removed from ministry at the time for his admitted crimes. Instead, he went to inpatient treatment in 1996 and continued with outpatient treatment thereafter until at least 1998. He was allowed to go back into active ministry under the supervision of other priests until 2003. Vavra also engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with other adult males during his tenure as an active priest.
After the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was promulgated in 2002, Vavra’s status was reevaluated in light of his prior conduct and the archdiocesan Clergy Review Board determined that he had violated the Charter and recommended in May 2003 he be removed from ministry. As a result, Vavra agreed to be removed from all ministry in June 2003.
Clarence Vavra not only violated his victims and their families, he violated his sacred trust as a priest and he deeply offended his fellow clergy and the laity. Serious errors were made by the archdiocese in dealing with him. In the spirit of offering him a path to healing and redemption, too much trust was placed in the hope of remedying Vavra’s egregious behaviors. Not enough effort was made to identify and care for his victims. Under our standards today, Vavra should have been removed permanently from ministry when he openly admitted his crimes and the civil authorities should have been notified immediately.
Further, after Vavra was removed from ministry, he received a transitional support payment of $650 per month that should have been made only until he reached eligibility for retirement benefits, but instead continued until 2012. As soon as these payment errors were discovered as part of an audit process, they were stopped and have not been reinstated.