The monks of Saint John’s Abbey are vowed to mutual respect between persons and a celibate way of life. We regard sexual abuse or sexual exploitation by a member of our community to be morally reprehensible. We are profoundly sorry for the pain that has been caused by those monks of our community who have not been faithful to their vows and we commit ourselves to care for those who have been the victims of such abuse.
Allegations of sexual abuse committed by monks of Saint John’s Abbey in the 1970’s and 1980’s have been a matter of public record for many years. When those allegations were made, each was promptly and thoroughly investigated. Considerable efforts were made to contact possible victims of abuse so that they could tell their story and receive the care they needed.
It is the policy and commitment of Saint John’s Abbey to protect all children and vulnerable adults from abuse by any member of the monastic community. If such abuse occurs, our primary concern is that victims are taken seriously and receive support and healing. In addition, steps are taken to insure that those monks who have committed abuse receive psychological and spiritual care, face the issues that may have led them to abuse, change their way of living, and respect the restrictions placed on them. If they are given work assignments, their contact with others who are vulnerable is restricted and their supervisors and colleagues are informed of the allegations that were made against them.
The news media continue to report deeply disturbing allegations of sexual abuse made against Father Richard Eckroth. Each of these allegations has been investigated, and Abbot John Klassen continues to meet with those who believe themselves to be victims of abuse by Father Richard. Even though it has not yet been possible to completely establish the facts of these complex and disturbing allegations, it is the policy of Saint John’s Abbey to offer pastoral care and assistance to those who have come forward with allegations. Abbot John Klassen is determined to pursue this case until it is resolved and justice is served.
More recently the news media have suggested that Father Richard may be connected with unsolved murder and kidnapping cases in the St. Cloud area. Father Richard was questioned in 1994 regarding the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Mary and Susanne Reker and passed a polygraph test. He was serving in our monastery in The Bahamas when Jacob Wetterling was abducted in 1989. Nonetheless, the Stearns County Sheriff wants to question Father Richard again. In this situation, as in every other case, Saint John’s Abbey has complied with Minnesota state law and worked with local authorities. This cooperation will continue.
The wound caused by sexual abuse is deep and long lasting. When it occurs at the hands of those charged with proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ by their words and their manner of life, it is unconscionable. The monks of Saint John’s Abbey will do everything in their power to ensure that those in pain find healing and that such pain is prevented in the future.
A Statement from Saint John’s Abbey
May 12, 2002