Douglas McCain, former Minnesotan, killed while fighting for terrorist group in Syria

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Douglas McCain via Facebook
NBC News broke the news yesterday of a 33-year-old American who grew up in Minnesota and died over the weekend fighting with ISIS in Syria. Citing White House officials and the Free Syrian Army, journalists identified the man as Douglas McAuthur McCain -- one of only a "small handful" of "foreign jihadis" believed to have joined the al-Qaeda spinoff.

Before moving to San Diego, McCain attended two schools, one in New Hope and one in Plymouth, between 1997 and 1999, according to Robbinsdale Area Schools. His classmates described him as a "goofball" who loved to play basketball. According to his Twitter account, he "reverted" to Islam around 2004. Public court records -- which document a couple of run-ins with police -- suggest he stuck around the Twin Cities until at least 2006.

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Alleged juggalo terrorist longed for "cowboy days" when "everyone carried a gun"



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Father Thomas Stitts may have confessed to sexually abusing boys before death

Categories: Religion
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Father Thomas Stitts, courtesy of Jeffrey Anderson & Associates
Father Thomas Stitts had been dead for mere days before his colleagues began digging up his spirit.

In a "STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL" memo dated November 22, 1985, then-Bishop Robert Carlson writes of Stitts's possible exploits with boys. Rumors were circulating that, before the cancer got him, Stitts had come clean about his "moral activity" and named similarly abusive priests in a letter.

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Kenneth LaVan, accused priest, kept working for archdiocese until 2014



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Kenneth LaVan, accused priest, kept working for archdiocese until 2014

Categories: Crime, Religion
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Artwork by Martin Ontiveros
As a bishop, Robert Carlson was responsible for sniffing out sexual misconduct. It was February 1985, and he'd just gotten through interviewing Father Kenneth LaVan and a married woman who'd slept with the priest after his repeated and aggressive advances.

She was scared, she said, because he'd begun appearing outside her home and crashed a family trip to the beach. The woman's husband confronted LaVan, and he responded by giving a sermon the following Sunday about those who would not forgive.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt refuses to step down despite mounting pressure



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Tom Lyden grills Archbishop Nienstedt on his sexuality and anti-gay views [VIDEO]

Categories: GLBT, Religion
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Lyden interviews Archbishop Nienstedt as one of his handlers looks on.
Last week, embattled Archbishop John Nienstedt did the media rounds, granting one-on-one interviews to most local outlets. (Our invitation must've gotten lost in the mail...)

Fox 9 reporter/anchor Tom Lyden's interview with the archbishop was especially noteworthy. Lyden, who's married to a man he's been in a relationship with for more than two decades, grilled Nienstedt about his own sexuality and anti-gay views. The line of questioning culminated in the archbishop acknowledging that his beliefs about the sinfulness of same-sex sexual relations don't seemingly make much sense at all.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt steps aside amid allegation he touched boy's buttocks


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Archbishop John Nienstedt refuses to step down despite mounting pressure

Categories: Religion
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Scene from a deposition
Archbishop John Nienstedt is digging his heels in the ground.

Despite growing evidence that he downplayed or ignored signs of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, he's decided not to resign from his post. Instead, he promised Wednesday to lead the region's Catholics to "a new and better day."

See also:
New York Times criticizes Archbishop John Nienstedt for handling of sex abuse cases



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Bob Schwiderski releases map of accused Christian clerics in Minnesota

Categories: Religion
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Artwork by Martin Ontiveros
For decades, Bob Schwiderski has been a voice for victims of clerical abuse. He's blanketed the neighborhoods of accused priests with fliers and held press conferences to encourage others to speak out.

This week, Schwiderski kicked up his crusade. He released an updated version of a map he created showing where each of the allegations of sexual misconduct that he's recorded over the years occurred and by whom. There's 250 names total, and they include not only Catholic priests and monks, but Episcopal and Protestant pastors and their staff. You'll also find four nuns.

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Jennifer Haselberger was ignored, bullied before blowing whistle on archdiocese



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Michael Kolar, former priest, tells of the sexual abuse he gave and received in new documents

Categories: Religion
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Artwork by Martin Ontiveros
"What began so innocently has ended in a Holocaust, and I have learned more in 3 years than one possibly learns in 90."

So wrote a young woman in a 1979 letter that is perhaps the most haunting piece of evidence yet against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

See also:
Jennifer Haselberger was ignored, bullied before blowing whistle on archdiocese, records show



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New York Times criticizes Archbishop John Nienstedt for handling of sex abuse cases

Categories: Religion
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YouTube screen grab of taped deposition
The chorus of John Nienstedt's critics got a lot bigger last week with the addition of the New York Times.

The editorial board of the nation's paper of record stopped short of calling for the archbishop's resignation, but said, "[T]he archdiocese has made a mockery of accountability."

See also:
Kevin McDonough, former vicar general, refused to cooperate with police investigations


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Jennifer Haselberger was ignored, bullied before blowing whistle on archdiocese, records show

Categories: Religion
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Artwork by Martin Ontiveros
-- Update at bottom with a statement from archdiocese --

In 2002, American Catholic bishops began making new demands on local dioceses: no more moving offenders to less public positions, and no more harboring of information.

It was a nice sentiment. But as Vicar General Kevin McDonough would later explain to his colleagues in private conference, it wasn't the way things worked in St. Paul.

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Kevin McDonough, former vicar general, refused to cooperate with police investigations


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Former priest Joseph Wajda groomed young boys for years, church records show

Categories: Religion

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From YouTube video taken in 2009 by MN SNAP
Joseph Wajda's house is a mess. Even from the front doorway, I can see stacks of yellow newspapers, unopened mail, and fast-food ketchup packets -- trash on top of trash that's accumulated in the kitchen and rotted over the years.

It's March and I'm working on a profile of another former priest who studied under Wajda back in the '90s. He's 67 now, and mumbles a lot, but eventually invites me inside for an interview. I remove my boots and freeze, having just stepped on soaking wet carpet.


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Former priest Jerome Kern says fondling was confused for "Italian wrestling"


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