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.
MN Congressional Delegation and Lt. Gov. Meet at White House About Steel Imports
Minnesota's federal lawmakers met with officials at the White House on Friday, to press their case about the problem of steel imports.
Gogebic Taconite Withdraws Wisconsin Application
The state Department of Natural Resources says a company that was looking to open a huge iron mine in northern Wisconsin has officially withdrawn its plans. Gogebic Taconite was considering digging a 4½-mile long mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior but announced last month it was closing its office in Hurley and future investment in the project wasn't feasible.
Girls-Only Shop Class Aims to Narrow Industry Gender Gaps
More women are now pursuing STEM fields, but there's still huge gender gaps in industries like manufacturing, machining and carpentry. a girls-only shop class at one Northland high school might be a way to change that.
Up, Up, and Away: Rare View of Duluth from Hot Air Balloon
Duluth residents were treated to a fairly rare sight over the city on Friday afternoon: two hot air balloons. The pair took off from Bayfront Festival Park around 4:15 p.m. as an effort to drum up excitement about this year's hot air balloon festival in September.
FEMA Awards Grant to Lake County to Mitigate Structure Fires
FEMA has awarded Lake County, Minnesota over $500,000 in a grant for the addition of metal roofing to 65 residential and commercial structures. Construction on some of the buildings can start as soon as the roofing season in northeastern Minnesota begins.