Allegations of sex abuse against Duluth Priest prompts SNAP to ask questions of Diocese

By KBJR News 1

June 16, 2014 Updated Jun 16, 2014 at 7:14 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNWO.com) -- A member of the Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is asking questions regarding sexual abuse allegations that have surfaced against Duluth Priest, Father Timothy Backous.

Father Backous has been accused of sexual misconduct 20 years ago, while on a choir trip with Saint John's Abbey in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Backous has since worked in Duluth at Essentia Health Saint Mary's Hospital as the Vice President of Mission Integration and Benedictine Sponsorship for the hospital.

A statement from the hospital says, "Essentia Health has placed Father Backous on administrative leave pending the outcome of its internal investigation into the matter."

Verne Wagner, the Northern Minnesota Director of SNAP is asking questions.

"When did the Duluth Diocese receive notice about Father Backous' alleged abuse and how long did they pull him from service? Did the Duluth diocese ever review his personnel file and ask Father Backous, or past Diocese he has worked in, any questions regarding sexual abuse?" said Wagner at a news conference outside of the Duluth Diocese on Monday.

Father Backous has also been working at St. Michael's Parish in Duluth on the weekends.

"To our knowledge, Father Backous has carried out his duties here — assisting at St. Michael’s parish, Duluth, on weekends — in an exemplary manner and consistent with his vows and responsibilities," said Father James Bissonette, vicar general from the Diocese of Duluth, in a statement posted on the Duluth Diocese website

"Nonetheless, we take such matters extremely seriously and have asked Father Backous to suspend his weekend work at the parish until a fuller examination of the facts can be completed.”

Wagner says the statement is defending Father Backous which is discouraging to others who may have experienced abuse.

SNAP is urging the Duluth Diocese and Essentia Health to reach out to patients and children who may have had contact with Father Backous, to assure that others may have not been abuse by him.

SNAP is also demanding the Twin Cities Diocese to investigate and report publicly why they failed to properly review Father Backous past record.

"[The Diocese] should be held accountable for the fact that they withheld this information and I believe they knew about it, they just didn't want to ask the question," said Wagner.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.
kanderson@kbjr.com

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