Minnesota priest resigns after allegations of abuse in West Virginia

By By Erin Beck
Staff writer

A Minnesota priest resigned after a Catholic clergy review board investigated allegations from a mission trip to West Virginia.

Joseph Gallatin rubbed the chest and stomach under the shirt of a 17-year-old Minnesota boy in 1998, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

In a more than 100-page affidavit submitted Tuesday, Jennifer M. Haselberger, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said she repeatedly raised concerns that Gallatin admitted he found the act sexually pleasurable and had admitted sexual attraction to boys as young as 12.

Her sworn statement, which alleges the archdiocese covered up warnings about approximately 40 priests over a five-year period, was submitted as part of a sexual abuse lawsuit.

In a statement from the archdiocese, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said, “Her recollections are not always shared by others within the archdiocese. However, Ms. Haselberger’s experience highlights the importance of ongoing constructive dialogue and reform aimed at ensuring the safety of children.” He also said the archdiocese had conducted a review of its response to sexual abuse allegations and has begun implementing some of the recommendations.

Gallatin and the boy were on a mission trip to West Virginia when the alleged incident occurred. It wasn’t clear exactly where in the state.

There is no record of Gallatin serving as a priest in West Virginia, Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, told the Gazette Wednesday.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests called on Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the West Virginia diocese to encourage anyone with knowledge of the incident in West Virginia to come forward.

“We’re encouraging the bishop to shout from the rooftops about this guy,” spokesman David Clohessy said. He suggested requiring pastors to read statements about the abuse and asking parents to ask their children if they ever had any contact with Gallatin.

When Clohessy first read Haselberger’s affidavit, he didn’t know the 1998 incident happened during a mission trip and wondered if Gallatin had once lived in West Virginia.

He said hearing that the alleged abuse happened on a trip didn’t sway the organization’s position.

“At the risk of sounding painfully graphic, it takes literally seconds for a man to shove his hand down a kid’s pants or stick his tongue down a kid’s throat,” he said. “Even if Gallatin was in West Virginia only for a weekend, the prudent, responsible thing for the bishop there to do would be to reach out.”

Minor said the diocese doesn’t have any plans to communicate with parishioners about the allegations at this point.

“The diocese just received word of the lawsuit filed in Minnesota and is reviewing the details related to that case,” he said. “If, when reviewing the details of this case, it becomes necessary to communicate with parishioners, we will do so according to our sexual abuse policy which is in effect. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston takes all allegations of child abuse or sexual abuse very seriously and will cooperate with authorities in every instance.”

Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the Minneapolis archdiocese, said he didn’t know specific details of the mission trip but said the trips typically send young people throughout the country to perform community service.

“It could be any number of activities,” he said. “It could be painting houses, yard work, taking the elderly shopping. It’s all types of different activities, but they’re called parish mission trips in the Catholic faith. Young people have service requirements that they meet. One of the service requirements [can be] summer mission trips.”

The church Clergy Review Board evaluated the incident at the time and placed Gallatin under monitoring, according to the church statement. As part of an ongoing review of clergy files, the church decided to revisit the incident recently.

Gallatin resigned from his Mendota, Minnesota parish last month after the Clergy Review Board recommended significant restrictions of his ministry. He will be assigned to a new role where he will not have any responsibilities in a parish setting or be involved with minors, according to the statement.

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed a response to Jennifer Haselberger’s affidavit to Minnesota archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso. The statement should have been attributed to Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

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