If the Abbey wants to take credit for ISTI, then it needs to be open about what actually happened, which is that the effort simply dissolved once the actual issues began to be addressed. – Elisabeth Horst, former ISTI Advisory Member
[ Webmaster’s Note: Elisabeth Horst sent permission to use her correspondence (below) to my original email regarding ISTI (far below). ]
To: Patrick Marker
From: Elisabeth Horst
Subject: Re: Time to Eliminate ISTI
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2011
Absolutely, Patrick, I will once again request that St. John’s remove web references that imply ISTI is an ongoing and credible undertaking. I have requested multiple times that my name be removed from anything that implies current involvement with the ISTI Board, both in writing and in person (to Bill Cahoy), to no avail. I have to believe that the remaining web links which imply that ISTI somehow continues are an ongoing attempt at denial and deception.
Part of the problem here is the deft use of double messages on the part of the abbey. I believe if you read some of the fine print you can find references to the disbanding of the Board, which the monks might believe gives them deniability. But any casual perusal of the website would lead someone to believe that ISTI continues in some form. I have had several victims contact me based on my name’s appearance there, assuming that ISTI was somehow ongoing.
If the Abbey wants to take credit for ISTI, then it needs to be open about what actually happened, which is that the effort simply dissolved once the actual issues began to be addressed.
The other observation that has been knocking around in my brain has to do with my memory of monks who attended the ISTI conferences. As I looked through the list of current monks, it occurred to me that I recognize the faces of a number of the the offending monks — specifically, monks who were not on restriction or publicly known to be offenders at the time — because they attended the ISTI conferences every year we ran them. I don’t recall any other monks attending — not the publicly acknowledged offenders, not anyone who is not now on the list.
What bugs me is that I had no idea that these were offenders (I recall Roman telling me that members of the community were free to attend as interested; one of the offenders told me he attended because he wanted to be a better confessor, and I assumed the others had similar reasons), but as I think about it now, it’s extremely likely somebody did know their histories (Abbot Timothy, Roman, Dietrich?) — otherwise why would the group be so specific? And meanwhile Abbot Timothy and Roman were very fond of telling the Board and the conference attendees that St. John’s had dealt with its problem and was now offering help as an outreach to other faith communities.
Incidentally, ISTI conferences were not designed to offer any kind of treatment for offenders (in fact, one of the problems of ISTI was that it was pretty darn hard to define exactly what ISTI was really about; despite numerous meetings and interventions to address the issue, the mission statement was so global as to be meaningless) so aside from a general familiarity with the issues, these offenders would not have really gained any effective help by attending.
It seems like the monastic community wanted to have it both ways: on the one hand, there is no problem, on the other hand, we can tell ourselves we are dealing with the problem because, look, we are sending our misbehaving monks to a conference about sexual misconduct. It’s a classic example of what my mentors in sexual abuse treatment called “fluid reality,” and it helps to explain how the monks can continue to lie and deceive so effectively: they themselves believe their own self-justifying rhetoric.
From: Patrick Marker
To: Elisabeth Horst
Sent: Sat, Mar 26, 2011 8:50 pm
Subject: Time to Eliminate ISTI
On the St. John’s University web site (Link) your name appears on a list of ISTI forum members.
It is my belief that The Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute (“ISTI”) was, and continues to be a public relations tool for St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. Further, its leadership, including (former) Abbot Timothy Kelly, Br. Dietrich Reinhart, Fr. Roman Paur and
(current) Abbot John Klassen have all either been perpetrators of misconduct or allowed others to do so without consequence.
St. John’s Abbey and its lawyers had the opportunity to begin the process of full disclosure and rehabilitation back in 1991 when the first story of abuse hit the media. Instead, the abbey’s leadership chose to threaten victims, deceive the public and create public-relations-centered programs like ISTI (in 1993) and the External Review Board (in 2003).
I am requesting that you contact St. John’s and ask them to remove any mention of ISTI (except for historical references) from their web sites. Allowing ISTI to remain, and appear to be a current, credible undertaking, is disrespectful to the hundreds of victims of misconduct at St. John’s.
Patrick J Marker