November 26, 2012
Bishop John Kinney
214 3rd Ave. South, PO Box 1248
Diocese of St. Cloud
St. Cloud, MN 56302
I am writing to bring to your attention my experience with my past sexual abuse at the hands of Father Othmar Hohmann, a priest who, although from St. John’s Abbey, served in a Diocesean-supervised church (as I understand it). Although I attempted to follow through on this once before, I regretfully didn’t have the courage to come forward as I am now, over 50 years later. I want to bring facts into the light of day, out of the dark recesses of the past. I know that Father Othmar died in 1980, and the Statute of Limitations prevents me from bringing charges. Yet I still want it to be known what happened to me, so that I may bring closure to this topic and to bring forward my story forward so others who may have been victims can come forth and find healing also. The issue of clergy sexual abuse is a sad but huge part of the history of humanity on this planet, one in which I have participated as a victim. By coming forward I hope for healing and growth for all parties concerned.
The priest who I knew as Father Othmar Hohmann of the Benedictan Order visited our home in St. Joseph, MN one summer when I was about 5-6 years old in 1960-61. ( Don’t recall exactly which year…) Father Othmar would come to visit and sit in the kitchen, talking for a long time to my mother. My father was working. My mother was a busy lady and so eventually she would leave the room to fold laundry, attend to my little brother in the other room, clean something, etc. The priest seemed to overextend his stay, much to my mother’s irritation. Fr. Othmar would always tell me how sweet I was and how much he liked to hold me and he would ask mom if he could hold me. She said this was fine. In her mind it was likely an honor when the parish priest would visit as well as show appreciation for her daughter. While she was gone in the other parts of the house, Father Othmar would set me on his lap, press my body against his, force me to kiss him on the lips and cheeks, and quietly rape me. As a young girl, I didn’t understand why he was breathing so heavy, sweating, and seemed so excited. After going through this for 10-15 minutes, my mother would return into the room. He would quickly then excuse himself and leave. This occurred maybe 4-5 times. After the last incident, I felt so upset, strange, and frightened that I told my mom after he left what he did. When Father Othmar came to visit again, my mother would not let me get close to him. So he stopped visiting.
But nothing was ever said about what happened and our family continued to treat Father Othmar with the respect due the parish priest. Every Sunday I had to sit in the pew with my family and honor him as the powerful representative of God elevated before us on the altar. And I had to go to the Confessional as a young girl and be alone with him in the dark closet and tell him the sins of a young child! Could mine ever come close to his?!! And sometimes, over the next 5-6 years, he would grab me, hug me, and kiss me in an overly affectionate manner (that I detested), even when there were other people around. He acted as if he was the jolly parish priest who loved children. Since he put on such well-loved community plays using so many children, the parish folk thought he was just a wonderful guy who loved children so much. For example, I was in the play “Hansel and Gretel” which he directed and produced. I stayed away from him as much as I could, but never talked of what Fr. Othmar did to me until I was in my 30’s. Then I saw a counselor about this to begin release the secrecy, denial, and confusion I had lived with.
This experience with Fr. Othmar was very disturbing to me and affected my life in my ways, as did many other aspects of my Catholic experience. I developed a lot of mistrust of people with authority. I stopped going to church when I was 18. I experienced a lot of inner turmoil. I was diagnosed with bulima, an eating disorder linked to high internal anxiety.
There were some positives in my Catholic upbringing, such as the emphasis on service, love of God and family, education, and community involvement. And there were many clergy (priests and nuns) who were kind, helpful, and respectful. I am very appreciative of these people who touched my life. However, the Father Othmar experience triggered a sense of mistrust, anger, and skepticism in the Catholic Church. It began the start of my education in “the inner workings” of the Church. Something seemed really murky below the illusion of ritual, hierarchy, sincerity, and material splendor. I began to question and research the Church in high school and began to learn that there was much deceit, corruption and hypocrisy that I had been raised with in the Catholic Church. When I moved away to another state, I realized I could still experience community, caring, and honor God without needing to be a Catholic. And I learned I could live with a much greater sense of honesty, integrity, and freedom of expression. But there was a great harm and injustice that was done to me by a priest as a young girl that has never been accounted for. I also am aware of several other women who have been abused by Father Othmar in a similar manner. Thus this letter.[Paragraph Redacted]
You may also send a copy of this to Abbot John Klassen and discuss this with him, but as St. Joseph parish is under the supervision of the Diocese of St. Cloud, I would like a response from you or jointly from both of you to address this matter. Please do not redirect me to Abbot Klassen of St. John’s Abbey. My impression from talking to others who have sent letters to the Abbey is that they do not sometimes provide an appropriate response and sometimes there is no response at all. I am hoping you will be more responsive. I appreciate any assistance you can provide on this matter.
Sincerely,[Name Provided by Redacted by Webmaster]
“I swear, under the pains and penalties of perjury, that the information I have provided on these three pages is true, and to the best of my knowledge and belief.”[Document was notarized on November 26, 2012]