St. John’s abbot reacts to abuse response criticism

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(SC Times) COLLEGEVILLE – St. John’s Abbey Abbot John Klassen this week defended his response to clergy sex abuse allegations, issuing a statement that says the abbey strives for transparency and the truth, even when allegations against a monk are unfounded.

A 1,051-word statement from Klassen this week to the St. John’s Prep School community included his “personal reflections” on whether the abbey’s responses to abuse allegations have “fallen short of what is expected.”

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Klassen cited a letter he said he recently received that asked where the “public voice” of St. John’s is when abuse allegations are made.

“I know we are bound to disappoint some of our friends who believe we respond too timidly and others who see our responses as incomplete and even disingenuous,” Klassen wrote.

He referred to the case of the Rev. Timothy Backous, the subject of recent news reports when the parents of a former St. John’s Boys Choir member accused him of inappropriate contact with their son, an allegation first made nearly 25 years ago that the abbey determined was unsubstantiated, Klassen said.

“Unfortunately and unfairly, the news media published the allegations with no corroborating witnesses, evidence or documentation. News stories accepted the untrue claim that restrictions were placed on Fr. Backous,” Klassen said. “All of this has come at a great personal cost to Fr. Backous. We will continue to do all we can to clear his name and help him regain his reputation.”

Klassen outlined the “realities we confront with almost every issue that comes forward,” saying that abuse claims often are decades old, made by reporters who have researched the allegations for days or weeks.

“We rarely have more than a couple of hours between the time we first are called for a comment by the news media and the deadline reporters impose on us,” Klassen wrote.

The abbey also is constrained in what it can say by “legal realities,” Klassen wrote.

“We have to walk a very fine line in these stories. It is our commitment to be respectful of those who believe they have been victims of abuse and, at the same time, to protect the legal rights of those who may be wrongly accused,” Klassen wrote. “There are times when we wish we could be even more proactive in laying out what we know to be the facts of a case.”

The abbey often is “chasing rumors” on websites and in email chains, Klassen wrote. They have taken legal action to remove incorrect information, but often the damage already has been done, he said.

“And, quite frankly, the truth simply doesn’t matter to some people,” he wrote.

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St. John’s abbot reacts to abuse response criticism
St. Cloud Times
June 25, 2014
David Unze

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Topics: John Klassen, Tim Backous

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