(AP) ST. PAUL, Minn. – Two former monks at St. John’s Abbey say the monastery fosters a culture of sexual secrecy that comes from the top. Patrick Wall and Richard Sipe joined St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson on Tuesday to announce a lawsuit alleging a former abbot at St. John’s, Timothy Kelly, abused an altar boy when he was a priest at a church in New York in the 1960s.
Kelly co-founded the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute at St. John’s in 1993 as allegations multiplied about sexual abuse by clergy. He died last October.
Wall told reporters Kelly was actually unresponsive to clerical sexual abuse.
Sipe says the institute was just part of a cover-up of sexual abuse by priests and monks at St. John’s.
An abbey spokesman expressed shock at the allegations and says an investigation has begun.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
A New York man filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that he was sexually abused at a Bronx church in the 1960s by a priest who went on to become abbot of the central Minnesota monastery and helped found an institute to deal with the problem of clergy sexual abuse.
The lawsuit against the Order of St. Benedict and St. John’s Abbey, filed in federal court in Minnesota, alleges that the former altar boy identified only as John Doe 174 was abused in 1966 and 1967 by the Rev. Timothy Kelly, who was then an associate pastor at St. Anselm’s Church in New York. It says the altar boy was about 15 or 16 years old at the time.
Kelly became a monk at St. John’s in Collegevillle in 1955, was ordained a priest in 1961 and was elected abbot at St. John’s in 1992. A year later, he co-founded the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute at St. John’s, saying sexual abuse by monks was immoral.
The abbot died last October. Abbey spokesman Paul Richards had no immediate comment on the lawsuit but said the abbey hoped to issue a statement later Tuesday. Richards said he wasn’t certain whether the institute was still active. Institute materials are still posted on the St. John’s University web site but list no activities since 2002, when it was incorporated into the St. John’s School of Theology-Seminary.
The former altar boy is represented by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who has filed numerous lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, including several priests and monks connected with St. John’s.
Anderson planned to give further details at a news conference Tuesday, joined by two former priests. They were to include Patrick Wall, a canon layer who became a monk at St. John’s where he worked with Kelly on issues of clerical sexual abuse. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Wall was quoted as saying he found Kelly unreceptive to the concerns of victims of clerical sexual abuse.
The lawsuit alleges that St. John’s Abbey had a duty to protect the plaintiff against Kelly, whom it called “an unfit agent with dangerous and explosive propensities. … Based on the prominence of sexually abusive clergy at St. John’s, it was foreseeable that Abbott Kelly would sexually abuse altar boys and other children at St. Anselm Church if the children and Abbott Kelly were not properly supervised.”
The lawsuit claims the statute of limitations has not expired because St. John’s systematically covered up abuse by many of its members over the years and the plaintiff did not discover the “fraudulent concealment” until this year.
It does not specifically allege that Kelly used the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute as part of any cover-up, nor does it allege Kelly had any other victims. It seeks unspecified damages in excess of $75,000.
New York man sues St. John’s Abbey,
alleging he was abused as altar boy at Bronx church