July 17, 2015 – Statement on listening sessions

Categories: News Releases / Statements


Diocese of St. Cloud  


Joe Towalski
Director of Communications
(O) 320-258-7624

July 17, 2015


Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of Saint Cloud will hold a series of listening sessions in August following allegations of sexual abuse committed by three priests of the diocese. The Diocese of St. Cloud was recently notified of four civil lawsuits alleging abuse by Father Robert Smith, Father William Wey and Father James Thoennes. The suits name the Diocese of St. Cloud as a defendant.

Smith and Wey have been deceased for more than 25 years. Thoennes does not have faculties to serve publicly as a priest and currently lives in St. Cloud under restrictions.

The listening sessions will be held at parishes in areas of the diocese where the three men served. The gatherings are an opportunity for the bishop to acknowledge the accusations, listen and answer questions, and encourage any other abuse victims/survivors to come forward.

“I’m very concerned about any clergy sexual abuse that has ever happened,” Bishop Kettler said. “I want to do everything I can to respond to the people who bring allegations forward and to prevent abuse from ever happening again.”

When the times and places for the gatherings are finalized, they will be published on the diocese’s website (www.stclouddiocese.org) and in the diocesan newspaper, The Visitor. Pastors of the parishes involved also will be given announcements for their parish bulletins and asked to announce the sessions from the pulpit. The sessions are not open to the media.

Similar sessions were held in the past in the Diocese of Saint Cloud. Previous to Bishop Kettler’s arrival in late 2013, Bishop John Kinney initiated listening sessions in parishes where clergy accused of abuse had served. Between 2002 and Bishop Kinney’s retirement in 2013, about 60 listening sessions were conducted.

In January 2014, Bishop Kettler publicly identified Smith, Wey and Thoennes as among clergy — diocesan priests as well as members of religious communities who served in parishes in the diocese — likely involved in the sexual abuse of minors in the past.

Smith, who died in July 1987, served at Holy Angels Church, St. Cloud; Holy Family Church, Belle Prairie; Our Lady of Victory Church, Fergus Falls; St. Leonard Church, Pelican Rapids; St. Paul Church, Sauk Centre; chaplain, Poor Clare Sisters, Sauk Rapids; Holy Cross Church, North Prairie; and St. Stanislaus Church, Sobieski.

Wey, who died in July 1988, served at St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud; St. Donatus Church, Brooten; Immaculate Conception Church, Sedan; St. Gall Church, Tintah; Sacred Heart Church, Dent; St. Peter Church, Dumont; and St. Patrick Church, Collis.

Thoennes served at St. Anthony Church, St. Cloud; St. Mary Church, Melrose; St. Joseph Church, Waite Park; St. John Church, Foley; St. Anne Church, Kimball; Sacred Heart Church, Dent; St. Leonard Church, Pelican Rapids; St. Joseph Church, Bertha; St. Edward Church, Henning; Chaplain, St. Mary’s Villa, Pierz.

Bishop Kettler takes all claims of sexual abuse seriously. He continues to pray for healing for all victims/survivors of sexual abuse, and he encourages all victims of abuse to come forward. Contact information for victim advocates and county officials to whom abuse can be reported is available online at: http://stcdio.org/about/safe-environment/how-to-report-abuse. The diocese’s sexual misconduct policy also is available online at www.stcdio.org/sexualmisconductpolicy. The diocese aims to provide safe environments for everyone and works in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”