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Catholic Diocese Complains about Sexually Harassed Employee’s Secret Recordings

KELO-TV’s Angela Kennecke is working up a sexual harassment scandal in the Sioux Falls Diocese of the Catholic Church. Her report includes an anonymous church employee’s secret recordings of conversations she had with the offending priest and with a diocese official and diocese lawyer.

The diocese complains that the recordings KELO is using to tell this story were sneaky:

Now you have presented us with recordings made under cover by an employee of [Redacted] Parish of her conversations with Matt Althoff and Fr. Wachs.  The recordings that you provided, in addition to having been made without the knowledge of the parties to the conversations, are heavily edited and you have denied us access to the entire recordings.

We made Bishop Swain available to discuss generally how allegations of this type are handled but that will be the extent of our response to anonymous, unfounded attacks and under cover and incomplete recordings [Daryl Thuringer, Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, statement to KELO-TV, posted 2017.06.28].

One can gripe about secret recordings, but one can’t prosecute. Under South Dakota law, any party to a conversation—in person or by phone or telegraph—may record that conversation without alerting any other participant that he or she is recording. One cannot trespass to eavesdrop, but if one is invited into a private space, one can record pretty much at will, as long as one doesn’t start taking naughty pictures.


  1. Steve Hickey 2017-06-29 09:35

    My wife and I just watched The Keepers and recommend it to all of you. Twice I tried to reverse the statute of limitations slight of hand on child sex abuse which Catholic lawyers and legislators pulled off thevyear before I was in office. I have no sympathy for the Church griping my about secret recordings and look forward to the day when all they’ve done in secret gets brought into the light. The perversion is dark, demonic, deeply rooted institutionally and internationally and in part the fruit of bad doctrines behind priest sexuality and celibacy.

  2. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 09:53

    So far, this has yet to be a story for me. Priest harasses employee, a meeting is held and a plan forward established, things do not improve, priest is removed from Parish. I am not sure what the harassed employee is seeking to gain from publicizing an internal matter that, for all intents and purposes, was handled appropriately and according to procedure (and a situation which practically every workplace has had to deal with i.e. one employee harassing another employee).

    As far as the recordings, they are of course suspect, as they are edited. This day and age, for audio or video recordings to have any crediblity, they need to be unedited and complete.

  3. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 09:58

    Mr. Hickey,
    I wish I could agree, if pedophilia were limited to Catholic priests, and did not include the ranks of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and all walks of life to include Protestant ministers, school teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc..,

  4. Steve Hickey 2017-06-29 10:15

    I’m underscoring here the deep and pervasive institutional denial, deception, disregard and cover up which IS unique to the R.C. Church. Particularly grievous is how spiritual abuse is connected at the hip with sexual abuse. One of the victims who I brought into testify in the legislature from the Mt Marty School abuses told about many times giving the priest a BJ while he whipped him with his rosary beads. When the boy told the nun she said she would pray for the Father. You can play with the stats to make your point but it’s not apples and apples. Are you Catholic, Joe?

  5. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 10:20

    I am Catholic. I was simple responding to the point I thought you were making “pedophilia and sexual abuse is a direct result of the bad doctrine of priestly celibacy”. But perhaps I was hasty is assuming that was the point you were making.

  6. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 10:22

    Do you see any deep and pervasive institutional denial, deception, disregard and cover up in regards to this sexual harassment event? Or any spiritual abuse?

  7. Jenny 2017-06-29 10:50

    Joe, this happens all the time in the Catholic Church, look up MPR and how they brought to light the big cover up scandal with the Twin Cities Diocese there. You say this is not a big deal that a Priest sexually harassed an employee? Wow, just wow. I agree with Hickey, the cover ups in the Catholic Church have probably been going on for centuries. Have you seen Spotlight which was about the Boston Catholic Church scandal which won Best Picture? This is the main reason why I left the Church, my conscience could not allow such corrupt sin and secrecy in a Church which is still cloaked in secrecy.

  8. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 10:50

    I also dislike how Keloland is trying their darnedest to turn this into a scandal

    KELOLAND News has been looking into this story that the diocese doesn’t want you to hear for our KELOLAND News investigation into what happened after the alleged harassment was reported.

    First, no company or organization is going to shout from the rooftops or publish in the newspapers about the sexual harassment allegations going on internally, and will certainly not release information if it has private information about both the harasser and harassee.

    Second, Bishop Swain accepted and did an interview with Keloland about the situation. What a cover up!

    But I am sure their three-part story is drawing plenty of viewers and readers.

  9. Joe Nelson 2017-06-29 10:52

    Sexual harassment is a serious issue. But is there some sort of insidious cover up occurring, necessitating a 3 part story? No. The situation was handled according to proper procedures, and the priest was removed from the situation when things did not get better. Explain to me where the news story is here.

  10. Jenny 2017-06-29 10:59

    I left the Church 15 yrs ago but I know of two priests and a bishop (Paul Dudley) who were accused of corrupt sinful acts and only one was charged. One fleeced the church money in the small town I lived, another was convicted of raping altar boys for years and Dudley was accused of sexual abuse of a young girl in the 50s but got off.

  11. Jenny 2017-06-29 11:03

    Well maybe the Church deserves the news coverage finally, with all the pedophilia and corruption that went on for decades.

    Angela is one of the few watch dogs working SD news. You guys need her.

  12. Wayne 2017-06-29 19:47

    I also watched The Keepers thought that it was very well done. Remember Robert Carlson, who was bishop in SF back in the 90’s? He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the 1980’s. The Twin Cities had multiple sex abuse claims and I think has filed for bankruptcy. In a taped deposition, he stated that he did not know that it was a crime for a priest to have sex with children. Now he is the bishop of St. Louis. Ignorance does have its rewards.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-29 21:47

    Joe, I agree that an edited tape warrants suspicion. Recall David Daleiden’s deceptively edited Planned Parenthood sting videos that got him in hot water. If the Diocese is being accused of wrongdoing, the Diocese has a right to question its accuser, which includes being able to review the full body of evidence being used against it, not just the accuser’s selected excerpts thereof. At the very least, since their officials’ words are being used against them, they can reasonably ask for the entire tape to be played. Of course, if they’re just saying that to smokescreen us, then they come out looking even worse.

    The most effective response would be to say, “Wait a minute. We were there. We didn’t say just what’s on the tape. We also said X, Y, and Z, which show that we didn’t engage in wrongdoing. Play the tape, and you’ll hear it.” Shouting out of context! in and of itself doesn’t refute the facts presented. It is entirely possible that KELO-TV reviewed the full tape and found that the excerpts presented capture the full story and that nothing else in the recordings changes our understanding of the basic malfeasance.

  14. Roger Elgersma 2017-06-30 13:08

    It is Biblical for priests to be celibate. God would not have said that it is the highest standard for the clergy to be celibate if he had not made people able to be that way. It is not the problem of a doctrine, but the unfaithfulness of those bad clergymen. For a church leader to not know the countries laws on abusing kids is not as ridiculous as a church leader not knowing what the Bible says about this. It is not a bad doctrine but bad procedures that allow priests to remain priests when they are sexually deviant.
    About the same place as the Bible says that the highest standard for the clergy is to be celibate, it also says that the clergy can be the husband of one wife. This was written when poligamy was legal. So even if they marry they must have higher than average morality. In the church I grew up in that verse ‘to be the husband of one wife’ meant that if a pastor cheated on his wife he was no longer a pastor. He could change his ways, ask forgiveness etc. but he was no longer a pastor because he had more than one woman. So to take on young boys was just to far off the cliff to even consider as a Biblical clergy person. The current pope said that we are not to judge gay priests. That is so far away from what the Bible says that he simply is not of God. The Catholic church forgot the Bible. When they keep this type of clergyman in the church because of their procedures, they simply have wrong unBiblical procedures. The church has become a human organization and not a church of God anymore.

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