ST. LOUIS PARK – St. John’s Abbey officials say the claims made Wednesday by a national advocacy group for clergy molestation victims are inaccurate.
The group calls the abbey’s eventual disclosure July 28 of allegations of sexual misconduct from the 1970s and 1980s “begrudging” and “reprehensible.”
“Our fear is that during these inexcusable delays by the abbey, other kids may have been hurt and were certainly put at risk,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, Mo.
Clohessy is the national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, which had a news conference Wednesday outside a Catholic high school in St. Louis Park.
“They are at least implying recklessness on our part that’s simply uncalled for,” said the Rev. William Skudlarek, spokesman for St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.
Allegations against the Rev. Michael Bik were made in 1997 and involved two teen-age boys in the 1970s, before Bik joined the Catholic abbey and before his ordination.
“Abbot John (Klassen) has already explicitly said if we had known in 1997 what we now know – and there has been an incredible amount of learning not only in the church but by society about sexual abuse since then – we would have done things differently,” Skudlarek said.
Bik was allowed to work at St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville for five years after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
“We were dealing here with allegations of abuse that took place decades earlier before Michael Bik came to St. John’s,” Skudlarek said.
Clohessy, a victim of sexual abuse by a cleric, said any information the Collegeville abbey has regarding sexual misconduct by its monks should be turned over to police.
Bik, 57, and the Rev. Bruce Wollmering, 65, live in the monastery and work under restrictions “where their activities are guided by individual plans of accountability,” Skudlarek said last month.
“We think common sense and common decency require that all information about suspected sex crimes should be given to independent officials in law enforcement – not to biased, untrained church officials,” Clohessy said by phone after Wednesday’s news conference.
The work restrictions by the abbey include “avoidance of student residence halls on campus,” Klassen had earlier said.
“We know that abbey officials claim they monitor these guys, but the simple truth is no one can monitor a child molester 24/7 – certainly not a cleric supervising a fellow cleric,” Clohessy said.
Accusations against the late Rev. Robert Blumeyer were made in September, involving a teen-age boy Blumeyer knew when he was an assistant pastor at a Wayzata parish starting in 1969.
“When allegations are brought forward, one needs time to determine if the allegations are true and how to proceed,” Skudlarek said.
While Blumeyer’s name was included in the July 28 news release, the abbey disclosed the allegations against him as early as May, which was reported by the media, Skudlarek said
“It seems to me that SNAP was expecting an immediate disclosure, and that is not always the best way to go considering the feelings of the victims involved,” Skudlarek said.
In 2004, Wollmering was accused by a St. John’s University student of sexual misconduct that allegedly started in 1984.
SNAP handed out 200 fliers Wednesday in the St. Louis Park neighborhood where the Rev. Dunstan Moorse, a St. John’s cleric accused of molestation, worked in the 1980s.
“It’s just unconscionable. May God have mercy on Klassen and his colleagues when a victim comes forward and reports abuse after this,” Clohessy said.
Abbey defends its handling of clergy offenses
By Frank Lee
St. Cloud Times (MN)
August 10, 2006