Ms. Lally, I would like to attend the next Review Board meeting to discuss the
On March 1, 2007, I wrote an email to Abbot John Klassen, warning
that “Tom Andert’s name will come up again… when the information
regarding Andert finally does come out, I believe that the
board/university/abbey/prep school will pay a high price.”
This past Sunday I received a copy of an email which showed that, “On
April 4th Abbot Klassen announced that the new prior for the abbey
will be Thomas Andert.”
Yesterday, I received a copy of an email that was sent by Abbot John
Klassen in July of 2007. The Abbot lists the members of the
“External Advisory Board” (see full list, below). The list of
members includes Father Tom Andert.
The members of the Board were first made aware that allegations had
been made against Father Tom Andert during a Board meeting in May of 2004.
Several members of the Board expressed a great deal of discomfort
following Tom Andert’s interaction with the Board, including his
presentation to the Board in September of 2004.
In October of 2005, the Board minutes reflect that, “Pat Marker
shared with Abbot John information that had been reported to Abbot
Timothy regarding Tom Andert.”
In January of 2006, the Board minutes reflect that, “There was a
question by a member of the Board as to what happened with the Andert
complaint. The Abbot reported that the victim would not come forward.”
The Board’s acceptance of Father Tom Andert as a member reflects the
changed nature of the group once referred to as the “The External
Review Board”. The spirit and intent of that original Board faded
long ago. The now “External Advisory Board” is a group of people
sympathetic to the highly political plight of John Klassen, a
dysfunctional monastic system, and the persecution of the offending
monks. The Board has consistently ignored the needs and feelings of
victims who have come forward – and those victims who struggle in
silence as their abusers are promoted and/or allowed to live and work
without real restrictions.
The Board has repeatedly failed to reach out. Almost three years have
passed since a letter to the alumni was first discussed during the
January 2005 meeting. During the April 2006 meeting, the alumni
letter was delayed by the Abbot because of three hurdles. According
to the Board minutes, those hurdles were, “a capital campaign,
recruitment issues and access to the database.”
A capital campaign should never come before the need – and the
responsibility – to reach out to potential victims. Shame on the
Abbot and the members of the Board who supported his decision.
The motion to accept the Abbot’s revised plan (a mention in two
magazines that are not sent to the entire database) was made by the
other “survivor” on the Board. This was a slap in the face to all
survivors. I stood alone in my opposition of the motion because the
Abbot’s plan would not reach the right people and did not include the
names of the offenders Father Michael Bik and Father Bruce Wollmering.
Allegations against Father Bruce Wollmering were brought forward by
the Abbot in the August, 2004 meeting. During that meeting, the Abbot
disclosed that he had been made aware of problems with Wollmering at
the end of the 2002 – 2003 school year. The Abbot and University
allowed Wollmering to finish out the school year and officially
“retire to pursue other interests” rather than resign immediately.
Following the Abbot’s disclosure, another Wollmering victim came
forward. At least three other “relationships” with college students
have since been confirmed.
At the February, 2005 meeting, the Review Board was notified by the
Abbot that Father Michael Bik had also been on restriction. Abbot
Timothy Kelly found out about Bik’s misconduct in 1998. Father
Michael Bik entered therapy in 1998 but was not removed from the Prep
School until 2002. He was then reassigned to a position which had him
working with students at the University – despite information that
Father Michael Bik had been acting inappropriately with Prep students
and young members of the monastery. This information was kept from
the Board until 2005.
There is little doubt that Father Michael Bik’s work around minors
and young adults at the Prep School, University and at Summer
Leadership Camps (1993) required a letter to all potential victims.
However, the alumni letter was never sent. I speculated during the
April, 2006 meeting that the reason for the delay had to do with
Abbot John Klassen’s desire to let the statue of limitations expire
for Bik’s victims. It was captured in the Board meeting minutes as,
“Concern was shared regarding potential victims of Michael Bik and
the fact that his name has not been disclosed and statute of
limitations for victims”.
After being deceived in the matters of Wollmering and Bik, the
members of the Board let the Abbot off with little more than a wrist
slap and concern for his ‘difficult job’. His job is difficult
because he refuses to sincerely act on the promises and apologies
that he makes in public.
When I joined the Board, I believed that the days where alcohol could
be used as an excuse for misconduct were over. An original member of
the Review Board [Jonathan Licari] left after just three months because of
an incident with a minor parishioner while under the influence of alcohol.
It is my understanding that following the incident, evaluation and
treatment for alcohol-related issues were completed but the issues
related to the inappropriate behavior were not addressed. This matter
should be reviewed.
As should the story of one of the original Board members who, while a
student at St. John’s University, was approached by a Father Paul
GoPaul, a visiting priest who went on to victimize at least two
others. The family of one these victims struggled with the pain of
abuse while the Board remained silent with information that
corroborated their story. I finally disclosed this important
information to the family who lost their brother to suicide following
abuse at the hands of GoPaul – and to the other victim of GoPaul who
came forward some time later.
Interestingly, two members of the monastic community now sit on the
Board. Father Gordon Tavis is very familiar with the abuse scandal.
He signed the checks to victims in the early 1990’s. He should be
required to disclose how many victims were paid off in order to keep
them quiet. He likely knows the names of many perpetrators, including
some not listed on The List, a section of the BehindthePineCurtain.com
web site dedicated to monastic and other misconduct, updated
today to include the names of four more community members.
The Board has never truly operated with the best interests of victims
in mind. This is apparent in its latest appointments – and the
continued vacancy of a key seat. Since my resignation in August of
2006, the seat on the Board reserved for a victim of abuse at St.
John’s has not been filled. This is contrary to spirit, if not the
mandate, of the October 1, 2002 settlement agreement that was highly
publicized and was to serve as an example for other faith
communities. No positive examples have been set.
The Board is not “external” at all. The Board has become part of the
Pine Curtain culture, operating with the same secrecy, sense of
importance and dysfunction that is on display at the monastery. That
the Abbot has a group of admirers on his “Internal Advisory Board” is
wonderful, but the work required to do the job correctly, and in the
spirt of the October 1, 2002 settlement agreement requires a
willingness to take the high road, not the financially beneficial
road. It requires hard work by a group of outsiders who are not
afraid to criticize. It requires difficult questions and full
disclosure. there is no disclosure from the current Board. Where is
information about the Board on the Abbey’s web site? Where are the
annual reports? Why hasn’t an annual report been issued each year?
As chairperson to the Board, you are responsible for the direction
the Board takes, and the mistakes that it makes. It is time to put
your career aspirations aside and do the right thing. This Board and
this Abbot have failed. It is time for a change. I’d like to discuss
those changes with the Board and the Abbot – and am requesting time
at the November, 2007 meeting to do so.
Patrick J Marker
Mount Vernon, WA
cc: Abbot John Klassen
*** Board Members as of July 13, 2007
Fr. Tom Andert, OSB
Prior, Saint John’s Abbey
Fr. Gordon Tavis, OSB
Assistant Head of School (Finance), Saint John’s Preparatory School
Director, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center
David G. Farrington
Retired Chief of Police for the city of Burnsville
Tom H. Frost
Criminal law lawyer; Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, Prosecuting
Survivor of sexual abuse by clergy; nurse by training; background in
Barbara J. Illsley
Director Dakota County Community Corrections
Doctoral degree in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota,
with a specialization in Sexuality. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
and a Licensed Psychologist.
Email from Patrick Marker to Catherine Lally
October 25, 2007