(St. Cloud Times) Back in 2002, we praised St. John’s Abbey, under the leadership of Abbot John Klassen, for unveiling a comprehensive approach to addressing clergy sex abuse.
That plan focused on apologies, accountability, and the abbey taking action when and if more allegations arose.
Sadly, the abbey’s commitment to all three aspects seems in jeopardy after Pat Marker, an abuse victim, cited the abbey’s own records to show how they contradicted an abbey statement made last month in response to a lawsuit about a priest accused of abuse.
Abbey leaders have refused public comment about Marker’s points. The abbey did remove from its website the statement in question last week. And communications staff said in a voice mail Friday that a statement is being drafted and will be released when “it is prepared.”
With all due respect, the response should come immediately. And it must include great clarity about why the abbey’s own newsletters and publications directly contradict the statement it made in response to a lawsuit filed in May against the Rev. Francisco Schulte.
Marker’s diligent research of the abbey’s own files as well as news reports show that from the early 1990s to at least June of 2002, Schulte was working or studying in Rome, the Bahamas and even Central Minnesota.
Yet the abbey’s statement in a response to the lawsuit said that from February 1992 “through June of 2002, Father Francisco was living at Saint John’s Abbey with ‘prudent, non-risk’ limitations on his ministry.”
Those “ ‘prudent, non-risk’ limitations” are terms the abbey has used the past two decades to describe actions it institutes when credible allegations of abuse are brought against any of its members. The original abuse allegations against Schulte date back to the 1980s.
Certainly, those allegations are tragic.
Equally troubling, though, is how after years of national scrutiny about the mishandling of clergy abuse by the Catholic Church, the abbey issues a statement in a new legal action that is basically contradicted by its very own records.
And then it stays silent for the better part of two weeks.
Apologize, hold people accountable and take action. It’s what the abbey promised to do. So do it. Now.
Our View: Abbey’s own files cast doubt on its facts
Times Editorial Board
June 7, 2010