(MPR) St. Cloud, Minn. — The Catholic Church in St. Cloud has called for healing after allegations of sexual misconduct by a former deacon, and the St. Cloud Diocese held a public meeting on Sunday at which church officials wanted to hear from the community about other potential victims.
Last month, allegations surfaced that Michael Weber, 67, of Foley, was involved in sexual misconduct in the late 1960s, sometime during the four or five months he was deacon at the Church of the Holy Spirit in St. Cloud.
Rick Stolpman was among those who spoke out.
Sitting at a booth in a St. Cloud Perkins restaurant just before Sunday’s meeting at Holy Spirit, Stolpman flipped through childhood photos he stored on his iPhone, some including Weber, whom he met as part of a “big brother” program through St. John’s University in Collegeville, when Stolpman was in the fifth grade.
The two were friends for two years, before Stolpman said Weber took him to a hockey game.
“He took me to a Minnesota Northstar hockey game in the spring in ’69. And after the game he said, rather than wake up my mother and disturb her, he was going to take me out to Foley and I could sleep at his parents’ house.”
“No big deal,” he said to himself, thinking Weber would have a separate bedroom for him. But when they got to the house, Stoplman discovered he’d not only have to share a bedroom, but also a bed. Stolpman said that’s where Weber fondled him.
Stolpman said he later told his school counselor about the incident, but as far he knew, nothing came of it, and he never saw Weber again.
Weber, meanwhile, went on to hold various community roles, including leadership roles on the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.
It was only after Stolpman heard Weber was working as a mentor with students at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University that he decided to go public. And he filed a police report last month.
“I found out that he was working out at St. John’s, and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ And he was a mentor for children? And I said enough’s enough, you know?” Stolpman said.
After the allegations were made public, Weber resigned from his volunteer mentoring role at the university. In a written statement, the college said it had not heard any reports of misconduct from students or alumni who worked with Weber.
The Greater Twin Cities United Way has also confirmed that Michael Weber sat on the board of directors for more than two years. He resigned on Nov. 14, following the allegations. According to the organization, no one has come forward with complaints regarding Weber.
But Stolpman is one of three people who filed incident reports in the last month with law enforcement that name Weber. All the incidents occurred between 1968 and 1970. According to at least one of the incident reports, the alleged sexual abuse would be beyond the statue of limitations.
Weber has not been charged in connection with the abuse allegations. And neither Weber, nor his attorney responded to several e-mails and voicemails asking for comment.
Last night’s meeting was closed to the media because church officials said they wanted to protect the identities of alleged victims. After three hours of discussion, Stolpman left the listening session frustrated because neither leaders from St. John’s and Bishop John Kinney were on hand to hear the allegations.
Jane Marrin, a spokesperson with the St. Cloud Diocese, said a lot of questions were asked, and advice given, at the listening session. It plans another meeting on Weber on Dec. 19.
“This is the practice in our diocese, when we have credible allegations and if in fact the victims who are coming forward are comfortable with it. Then we do any listening sessions in any parishes that the cleric has served in,” she said.
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(MPR) With former deacon accused of sexual abuse, St. Cloud Diocese listens to accusers
by Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
December 5, 2011