This letter responds to your article “Scandal at the abbey” (NCR, Dec. 13). I am a brother to Benedictine Fr. Richard Eckroth, who received the most coverage of 11 monks accused of sexual abuse in your article. He is one of two at St. John’s Abbey who deny guilt. In its concentration of attention on those who deny charges, your report echoes the local print and broadcast media. Does any newsperson ever consider that some accused priests might actually be innocent? The tradition of “innocent until proven guilty” which, I hope, still pervades American justice, certainly does not apply to media reporting on this subject.
You noted that the accusations against my brother are based upon “recovered memories” but did not mention that the reliability of these are hotly argued among mental health professionals. I am familiar with the site near Bemidji, Minn., where Fr. Eckroth is alleged to have committed abuse. The actual physical conditions there contradict several details reported by the alleged victims in the local press. Neither the abbey nor Fr. Eckroth have described these errors in the accusations on advice of attorneys.
I generated a list of all who visited the cabin with Fr. Eckroth based on a photo album filled with pictures of smiling children, including two of my own. Interestingly, a family named in your article, which claims four of its children were abused, was the most frequently represented in these photos. Isn’t it odd that abused children should wish to return again and again? I submit that, in fact, no abuse occurred and that the children visiting, in groups of four to six, had an enjoyable experience that many of them chose to repeat when given the opportunity.
At least your writer did not repeat the gaffe made by writers in the local media who implied some connection of Fr. Eckroth with the still unsolved abduction of Jacob Wetterling from nearby St. Joseph. At the time of Jacob’s abduction, Fr. Eckroth was assigned to and living in the Bahamas, about 1,000 miles from the scene of that heinous crime–a fact which could easily be discovered by reporters had they made the slightest effort.
National Catholic Reporter, Jan 24, 2003 by Charles A. Eckroth
CHARLES A. ECKROTH
St. Joseph, Minn.
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