On Monday, I learned that Michelle Soldo, an attorney from St. Paul, Minnesota, is conducting an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Timothy Backous.
After viewing a draft of this post earlier today Ms. Soldo wrote, in part, that she is “an experienced and independent fact-finder with no vested interest in the outcome of any investigation I conduct.” While that may be, Ms. Soldo’s findings are reportedly provided only to those associated with Saint John’s Abbey. This is not a recipe for truth and transparency.[Note: If you have information regarding sexual or any other misconduct Father Backous or any other individual, please contact law enforcement, an attorney or a therapist/advocate before working with anyone associated with the Saint John’s Abbey.]
In her email, Ms. Soldo also requested that I present any information I have to corroborate the allegations against Father Backous and suggested that by writing this post, I was interfering in an “independent fact-finding investigation.”
The trouble is… we’ve been here before.
I presented information to Ms. Soldo two years ago regarding Fathers Mel Taylor and Dan Ward. I even suggested then that persons with knowledge of misconduct contact the abbot or me for Soldo’s contact information. [ View ]
The effort failed miserably. Victims were misled. Perpetrators were NOT held accountable. My faith in the Abbey’s investigative process has yet to be restored.
In approximately October of 2012, I was connected with Ms. Soldo, who had been contracted by St. John’s Abbey and/or its attorneys to investigate claims of sexual misconduct by Father Dan Ward and Father Mel Taylor. In 2011 and 2012, five victims provided statements to me regarding sexual misconduct by these priests. I arranged for four of them to speak with Ms. Soldo, based on an email from an attorney from Saint John’s who wrote:
Since you have acted to facilitate this investigation, we are prepared to share with you a summary of the information the alleged victim(s) provide(s).
Despite repeated requests, no such summary was ever provided to me.
Finally, in late January of 2013, I met with Ms. Soldo [ Web Site ] in her St. Paul office. She shared that she found all four of the victims she interviewed to be credible. Despite her findings, Father Mel Taylor and Father Dan Ward have yet to be held fully accountable for their misconduct.
After hearing that Ms. Soldo is now investigation the Father Timothy Backous matter, and that my name had been used in at least one these discussions, I wrote an email to Ms. Soldo on Monday.
Regarding our January 25, 2013 meeting:
I was relieved when you shared that you found all four victim accounts to be credible. I believe that we commented on the fact that the victims simply wanted the truth revealed. One of us [may] have used the word “refreshing.” I believed, based on our conversation, that the truth would be shared and that these men would be held accountable. The trust that I, and especially these victims, placed in you was violated.
Regarding the use of my name:
Please make no mistake. I do not support you, your efforts, or have any confidence that what you are doing is a step toward the truth – or in any manner an effort to support the victims of sexual abuse.
In a July 15, 2014 story posted at MPR.org [ View ] Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger claimed the Archdiocese oversaw faulty private investigations of abuse claims. “The way in which the Archdiocese sought information from potential complainants was one factor that led me to the opinion, which I shared on several occasions with Chancery leadership, that when the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis ‘investigated’ something, it was always done in such a way as to ensure that we concluded the investigation with less clarity than we began with,” she said.
Is the abbey any different?
One former choir member told me that he recently told an investigator, who he identified as Soldo: “that I remember that [victim] left quite abruptly and that we knew that it was because of inappropriate behavior from Fr Tim.”
What will the investigator’s report to the Abbey say about Father Backous – and what will the Abbey do with the information?
As demonstrated in the Ward/Taylor matters, the information will likely be processed by Abbot John Klassen, the Abbey’s PR machine and its damage control department.
In other words, little or nothing.
I urge caution.
Patrick J Marker
July 16, 2014