Credibly Accused of Sexual Misconduct

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St. John’s Abbey Benedictine establishment at Collegeville, MN, the largest Benedictine monastery in the western world, adjacent to St. John’s University and St. John’s Preparatory School. At least 14 of the abbey’s nearly 200 monks have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

1. Swenson Lake cabin Owned by St. John’s Abbey as a place for vacations and retreats for the monks in the Benedictine monastery.
2. St. John’s Prep St. John’s Preparatory School, there were rumors about the various boys in the school who were special friends with those monks, three of whom were confirmed by the Abbey as sexual abusers.

St. John’s Abbey abuse Abbey addressed decades of sex abuse allegations (1960s-90s), disciplining 13 monks and settling with a dozen victims. Eckroth and 12 other monks accused of sexual abuse live at the abbey under restrictions imposed by previous abbots, limiting where they may go and who they may see. Seven, including former Abbot John Eidenschink (abbot 1971-1979) have admitted abuse, John Klassen said. Eckroth and another have not. The other four men were involved with Internet pornography or incidents not involving other people.

1. McGraw statement Rev. Rene McGraw, the liaison on abuse claims between the Benedictine monastery and lawyers, acknowledges claims have been made against at least nine monks (including one abbot) for abuse of minors and involving at least 16 children from the 1940s to the mid-1980s. Eight of the nine monks admitted to the abuse and one reportedly is senile. Father Richard is not considered to be among this group of nine. Despite the settlements, allegations, confessions and therapies, each of these clergy still lives on the St. John’s campus.

2. St. John’s Abbey culture For decades, a group of monks at St. John’s Abbey operated a sex abuse ring. Boys as young as 9 were victimized, as were teenage boys and girls. But most of the victims were novice monks – high school and college graduates who were drawn to the discipline of monastic life, which consists of prayer, study, teaching and living in a religious community of like-minded men. A former monk recalled that during the 1970s, the novices would enter the dining room, and a group of older monks “would descend like vultures.” Jeffrey Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney stated: “For a long time there has been a cleric culture created there at St. John’s of sexual abuse of minors and adults, and it is huge. Every time we try to address it legally, they put up barriers, hiding behind statutes of limitations. They are deceiving everybody that there isn’t a problem out there.” “There are dozens of monks,” he seethes, “who are involved in this abuse. If a victim comes forward they [the abbey] basically try to keep them in guilt and secrecy, and if these kids have the courage to go to a lawyer the abbey shuts them down, treats them terribly, victimizes them again. And it’s really ugly. I’ve brought some dozen cases against St. John’s and have settled on most of them, but because of the statute of limitations in Minnesota I have not been able to get justice for these kids. I’ve received about 20 cases in the last 10 years about abuse out at St. John’s and because I’ve not been able to expose any of them in court, the number of victims out there is probably 10 or 20 times higher than that. I’ve talked to a half-dozen victims involving Eckroth alone, but have never been able to bring a case against him.”

3. John Klassen Abbot John Klassen in just a year after becoming abbot, named names, met with abuse survivors, publicly apologized and settled with victims and families before some had even sued.

Sexual abuse settlements Attorney Jeff Anderson said that he has represented at least six victims of abuse by priests at the abbey. He said that before 1994 he settled “a few in the several-hundred-thousand-dollar range.” After 1994, he was forced to settle for what he described as small cash settlements around $25,000 because the statute of limitations had elapsed. He said three of the smaller settlements were suits against Eckroth. “I’m embarrassed and sad to say I had to settle for that on the victims’ behalf.”

1. Klassen settlement Rev. John Klassen, abbot of St. John’s, and attorney Jeff Anderson announced that they had reached a settlement, and not just on the dozen cases Anderson had pending. The St. John’s solution offered a framework for ending the priest abuse crisis in the US. In addition to making personal apologies to victims and paying for their counseling, Abbot Klassen agreed to put accused clergy on leave and report any new case to law enforcement officials. The abbot agreed not to hide behind either canon law or the statute of limitations. Klassen also agreed to set up an outside board to handle all clergy abuse cases against his monks. October 2002.

1. Anderson view “In our experience, working in every state and every diocese, they’re the darkest and most medieval when it comes to helping and healing. They’ve been miserable and mean and unpastoral and hurtful; it’s just ‘batten down the hatches and get ready for war.’ “

St. John’s Abbey whistleblowers Former monk at St. John’s Abbey, MN, and psychotherapist, A. W. Richard Sipe, conducted a study of clerical sexual habits, 1990 (Priestly fornication). Patrick Wall, 11 years as a Benedictine monk at St. John’s Abbe, six as a priest, published “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes” by Bonus Books November 2005. “We are exposing a couple thousand years of hypocrisy.” In Wall’s career he learned that “many priests maintain secret sexual relationships.”

St. John’s Abuse Disclosure Project (ADP)

St. John’s Abbey lawsuits Sued on behalf of two plaintiffs, June 2002.

Vogel allegations Arlene and Raymond Vogel were never told was that three of their six children were molested for years by two St. John’s priests. Son Michael says it began for him at age 11 and lasted almost two years. He said, “Your father and mother said, ‘Clergy don’t sin, don’t make mistakes. When they tell you something, listen. They are great examples of [the] type of person you should try and be.’ ” Confusion led to problems with drug abuse, gambling, and poor grades in school. Michael Vogel says it was only after years of therapy that he was able to tell his parents. Vogel said when he brought abuse allegations forward in 1990, a former abbot lied to him, saying no other children were abused by his accused priest. That abbot also denied Vogel a meeting with the priest, something Vogel requested for his healing process.

(alphabetical listing)

[NK offenders identified, 15 listed]

Bennett affair Brother Andre Bennett, St. John’s Abbey Benedictine monk, according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse.

Caskey case Rev.John Lloyd Caskey (1955-) served three years as Associate Priest at Assumption in the early 1980s before moving on to several other assignments. Over 25 years, Caskey has served as a military chaplain and as a pastor in numerous communities, including Browns Valley, Browerville and Clarissa. priest at Assumption Church in Morris and Associate Pastor in Chokio and Herman. He was officially installed at Assumption on 16 September 2007. He left Assumption in December 2007. Diocese of St. Cloud arranged for Caskey to be evaluated at Saint Luke Institute, a part of the Maryknoll Center in Silver Springs, Maryland. He was charged with 20 counts of possessing child pornography in Stevens County District Court, 2008. He pled guilty to the first three counts and admitted possessing the images of minors, 20 August 2008.

Connolly affair Brother Isaac Connolly a community member on leave from the abbey accused of sexual abuse.

Cosmos affair Fr. Cosmos allegedly was involved in sexual abuse.

Dahlheimer affair Rev. Cosmas Dahlheimer of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse.

Eckroth affair Rev. Richard Eckroth (Father Richard), monk at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, where he taught philosophy to students at St. John’s University, was prefect at a residence hall and served as priest in two nearby parishes. From 1971 to 1976, Eckroth routinely took small groups of boys and girls (children of friends who worked as St. John’s, or children from nearby parishes) to a cabin near Bemidji, Minn., for overnight visits. He was transferred to the abbey’s Bahamas mission in 1977. Settled alleged abuse of boys and girls 1995.

1. “Sauna Kids” Story of youngsters developed between 1971 and 1976 when Father Richard invited scores of children in groups of four to six for weekends at a remote log cabin on Lake Swensen near Bemidji, Minn., owned by St. John’s Abbey. These youngsters ranged in age from 7 to 13. They saw a happy time turn into the nightmare of a life dealing with painful memories of what occurred at the abbey’s cabin where they suffered abuse at the hands of their trusted priest. While Father Richard never has admitted in public to any of the allegations of sexual abuse brought against him, confidential medical records maintained by the abbey in which church-run therapy clinic doctors said that he engaged in inappropriate touching of children and encouraged them inappropriately to touch him.
1. Vessel allegation Particularly sad case involved Elizabeth Vessel and her family. The statute of limitations had run out on their case and they could not be helped. “That whole family suffered one horrible tragedy after another,” he said.
2. Olson allegation “I remember Father Richard got mad about something and we ran over to the neighbors,” said Helen Olson. “The woman and her boys wanted us to stay the night there, but we didn’t. I was 11. Father Richard raped me that night.” The fondling in the cabin sauna, then up in the musty loft. The knife at her throat while the priest molested her and told her she would die if she ever talked about what he was doing to her. Her brother described the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Eckroth, he tried to commit suicide in 1978. “I’ve been in hospitals six or eight times, starting when I was 17 and suicidal,” Olson said Olson received a check for $10,000 from St. John’s Abbot John Klassen, whom she told about her alleged abuse for the first time in January 2002. He sent her $2,000 in April. The money, he said Wednesday, is to help with counseling and living costs. An accompanying letter from the abbot said, “I know that this ordeal has been very hard for you and has taken a great deal of courage. I enclose $10,000 and I am hoping that this will be of help over the short haul,” May 2002. Eckroth’s activities have been restricted since 1993 because of sex-abuse allegations; he was the focus of sexual-abuse lawsuits, and has been identified by the Stearns County sheriff as a suspect in the 1974 stabbing deaths of Mary Reker, 15, and her sister Susanne, 12, of St. Cloud. Eckroth has denied any involvement with sexual abuse.

Eidenschink affair Abbot John Eidenschink, abbot 1971-1979, admitted abuse.

Gillespie affair Rev. Thomas Gillespie of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse.

GoPaul affair Rev. Paul A. GoPaul, a visiting history professor at St. John’s Abbey, drugged and raped Patrick Ryan in 1970. His father had written to St. John’s in 1970 that detailed the reasons Patrick Ryan wasn’t returning to St. John’s after a little more than one year of schooling. After dropping out of college, Ryan returned home to California a changed person who fell into deep depression. He spent time in a mental health facility, escaped and distraught hanged himself in a California jail in February 1971. The first the Abbey had heard about allegations against GoPaul was in 2002.

Hoefgen affair Rev. Francis Hoefgen of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse, admitted abuse. Settled 1992.

Kelly affair Brother John Kelly a community member on leave from the abbey accused of sexual abuse.

Maiers affair Rev. Brennan Maiers of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse.

McDonald affair Brother Finian McDonald of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse. Settled.

Moorse affair (Morse affair, Rev. Dunston Morse) Rev. Dunstan Moorse according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse. Moorse and St. John’s Abbey faced at least two lawsuits for sexual abuse. Bill Quenroe sued the abbey and Moorse accusing him of abuse in the 1980s. His claims against the abbey were settled, but his lawsuit against Moorse remained 2002. was sued for alleged abuse, including drugging students. 2002. Settled.

Schulte affair Rev. Francisco Schulte, Benedictine, accused of abuse, on restriction for sexual abuse, St. John’s Abbey.

Tarlton affair Rev. Allen Tarlton of St. John’s Abbey according to published reports is on restriction for sexual abuse, admitted abuse in deposition, 1993.

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Topics: Allen Tarlton, Andre Bennett, Brennan Maiers, Cosmas Dahlheimer, Dunstan Moorse, Finian McDonald, Fran Hoefgen, Francisco Schulte, Isaac Connolly, Jeff Anderson, John Eidenschink, John Kelly, John Klassen, Patrick Wall, Paul GoPaul, Rene McGraw, Review Board, Richard Eckroth, Richard Sipe

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