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Judge orders names of accused priests released

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge on Monday gave the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis until Dec. 17 to disclose a list of 33 priests deemed to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North, Jr., also ordered the Diocese of Winona to release a similar list of 13 priests, bringing the total clergy named to 46. Both lists were compiled in 2004 in a nationwide study to determine the scope of clergy sex abuse.

The two dioceses must release the priests' names; birth year and age; year of ordination; whether they're alive or dead and the year of death; the parishes they served; their current status; and the city and state where they live. The dioceses must provide detailed explanations to the court for any names they choose not to release, Van de North said. They must file the same information by Jan. 6 for any priests accused of sexual abuse of minors since the lists were compiled.

Church leaders have balked at releasing the lists of credibly accused priests in the past, saying publication could harm the reputation of innocent priests. They argued the term "credibly accused," which was coined by the 2004 study, has a low threshold and meant that any report of abuse that was "not implausible" was to be included on the list.

Van de North said his ruling will put the "lightning rod" issue of the identity of accused priests into a better perspective. It also allows both dioceses to make exceptions, but requires more detail about those exceptions than the dioceses have provided in the past.

"I think the archdiocese and the archbishop are making strides, and it certainly seems to be moving in the right direction," Van de North said, adding: "They need a little push from the court."

Van de North said he will also issue a written order reiterating his ruling.

"These cases have to move along," he said. "We're going to get justice for everybody."

Before Van de North issued his order, an attorney for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said it was prepared to name 30 priests accused of sexually abusing minors. The names include 29 priests on the 2004 list, plus one who had a substantiated claim leveled against him later.

For the remaining four on the 2004 list, archdiocese attorney Tom Wieser said one was a member of a religious order and neither the archdiocese nor his order has any information showing he ever served in the archdiocese. The other three are priests for whom the archdiocese says the allegations can't be substantiated.

Former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson was reviewing those three files for the archdiocese to see if they should be released.

Van de North noted that 20 of the 33 names on the archdiocese's list have already been publicly disclosed.

Thomas Braun, attorney for the Winona diocese, objected to releasing any of the 13 names on its list.

Archbishop John Nienstedt said earlier that he needed the court's permission to disclose the information because the list was under a protective order. Attorneys for victims of abuse said beforehand that the archdiocese didn't need permission to release its own information.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.