Updated: 06/17/2014 1:40 PM
Created: 06/16/2014 9:21 PM WDIO.com
By: Alan Hoglund
A member of an organization that supports victims of abuse by priests is demanding answers from the Diocese of Duluth. This comes after the work of a priest at St. Michael's Catholic Church has been suspended while the diocese investigates allegations of abuse from nearly 25 years ago.
"Whether or not this man is guilty, that's up for a court to decide," Verne Wagner, the Northern Minnesota director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Wagner is talking about Father Timothy Backous. Backous is accused of abusing a child at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota in 1990. According to the Diocese of Duluth, Backous relocated to Duluth to work at Essentia Health. He has also been serving a role at St. Michael's on the weekends.
For now Backous' work at both locations is on hold.
Essentia Health Media Relations Specialist Maureen Talarico told us Backous offered to take leave from his current role following renewed accusations of misconduct. "Essentia Health has accepted and placed him on administrative leave pending the outcome of its internal investigation into the matter."
A June 11th statement from Father James Bissonette, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Duluth, said "we've just become aware of the allegations...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."
While the diocese said they learned about the allegations last week, Wagner alleges that it's not true. He told Eyewitness News that the diocese needs to be held accountable for allegedly with- holding information.
Wagner has a lot of questions: Did the diocese review his [Backous] personnel file? Has anyone else accused Backous of abuse?
Communications Director Kyle Eller said prior to Backous coming to St. Michael's, the diocese asked for and received a letter from Abbot John Klassen, his religious superior, in the spring of 2013. According to Eller, it said that Backous is a priest in good standing and that nothing in his background would render him unsuitable to work with children.
Eller said St. John's investigated the 1990 allegations and found them to be unsubstantiated. He said they know of no other accusations against Backous, and that "to our knowledge Father Backous carried out his duties at St. Michael's responsibly."
However, Wagner wants the priest's employers to do more checking. "SNAP urges the Duluth Diocese and Essentia Hospital to reach out to patients and children who may have had contact with Father Backous to assure that others may have not been abused by this man."
The diocese said it takes sexual abuse seriously too, and is urging any victims to come forward to law enforcement and the church.
Cloquet Officer, Nurse Killed in Head-On Crash
An off-duty police officer and a nurse were killed when their vehicles collided in a head-on crash in Cloquet Thursday night. The Minnesota State Patrol identified the victims as 54-year-old Fay Dahlman of Alborn, Minn., and 49-year-old Mark Laine of Saginaw, Minn.
Wis. Legislature Approves Right-to-Work
The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a right-to-work bill on a straight party line vote. The bill passed Friday on a 62-35 vote, with all Republicans in support and all Democrats against. The Senate passed it last week.
Concern Grows over Hibbing Administrator's Anticipated Return, Matter Turned Over to AG's Office
Frustrations were high in Hibbing on Thursday night as community members gathered at Open Door Church with questions about the anticipated return of a Hibbing high school assistant principal. The administrator was terminated in August, but tonight no specific names or specific incidents could be mentioned during the meeting....
Johnston Sues Duluth School District, Fellow Board Members
Duluth School Board member Art Johnston has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and five of his fellow board members, alleging that his civil and constitutional rights were violated when the board voted to remove him from office.
Another Thriller! Duluth East Advances to the State AA Semifinals after OT Win
Ryan Peterson's game-winner in overtime completed the 6-5 comeback win for the Greyhounds.