(Fox 9) ST. PAUL, Minn. – A settlement has been reached with St. John’s Abbey in nine alleged sexual abuse cases involving 10 monks or priests at St. John’s Prep in Collegeville, Minn.
The alleged abuse occurred between the 1960s and 2004.The accused clergy all taught at St. John’s Preparatory School or were assigned to parishes, attorney Jeff Anderson told The Associated Press.
Jerry McCarthy said he was a teenager when he was sexually attacked by Father Brian Wollmering, a counselor at the school. He kept it a secret for 40 years until he read Wollmering’s obituary in the newspaper a year ago, but then he filed a suit against St. John’s Abbey.
Anderson said survivors demanded that abusers no longer be kept secret.
“People like this were given cover by their superior not for months, not years — but decades,” said McCarthy.
No longer, however, as the abbey named 17 monks — four of them dead — who have been credibly accused. Furthermore, Anderson said St. John’s Abbey agreed that any confidentiality agreements on all previous settlements should be tossed.
McCarthy said it’s a good step, but it will take a lot more for him to have faith in the abbey again.
“I think they haven’t been harsh enough on the ones that have had credible accusations against them,” said McCarthy. “I don’t even know why they’re still in the monastery; I don’t know why they put up brick walls and protect these people.”
Anderson announced the settlement Monday, but did not disclose terms.
The settlement requires St. John’s to send a letter to anyone who attended the St. John’s Preparatory School, disclosing the names of offenders against minors.
Abbot John Klassen sent that letter to the St. John’s community on Monday, naming the monks alleged to have committed the sexual abuse in the settled cases. Klassen wrote:
I have written to you before on the issue of sexual abuse on three previous occasions. Some of you may have been affected by sexual abuse or may know of others who have been. I am posting this open letter to you because I wish to publicly acknowledge that the following monks have had credible allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation, or misconduct brought against them while they were working in one of the apostolates of Saint John’s Abbey, or before they were a member of the abbey. I release the names due to recent settlements with eleven courageous survivors.
Brother John Bennett
Father Michael Bik
Brother Issac Connolly
Father Cosmas Dahlheimer
Father Richard Eckroth
Abbot John Eidenschink
Father Thomas Gillespie
Father Fran Hoefgen
Brother John Kelly
Brother Steven Lilly
Father Brennan Maiers
Father Finian McDonald
Father Dunstan Moorse
Brother Jim Phillips
Father Francisco Schulte
Father Allen Tarlton
Father Brian Wollmering
Four of these men are deceased, three are no longer at Saint John’s, and the other live within the constraints of a safety plan and supervision.
Under the settlement, the Order of Saint Benedict agrees to perform the following actions:
- Display sexual abuse information on a website, including a letter describing the settlement and survivors’ stories.
- Remove any confidentiality agreements or gag orders that might exist in settlements it has entered into, and allow the settling parties to post their stories on the abbey’s website.
- Create a policy requiring all members of the abbey working on outside assignments with minors, or in a leadership position, to sign a sexual abuse and exploitation policy and fill out a background questionnaire concerning sexual abuse.
- Read a prepared statement at all Sunday masses concerning allegations against a monk found to be credible.
None of the men accused in the lawsuits still works at the school and none has ever been criminally charged, Anderson said.
The settlement also frees other people who filed other lawsuits to talk publically, lifting gag orders imposed in previous settlements, he said. Under the settlement, the alleged abusers can also be named.
Anderson has filed thousands of lawsuits alleging sex abuse by priests. He calls the settlement “another step forward to protecting others and requiring St. John’s to come clean and transparent with the crimes of the past so those don’t occur in the future.”
The Order of St. Benedict operates the prep school and abbey at St. John’s University in Collegeville, near St. Cloud in central Minnesota.
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St. John’s Prep Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Settled
Updated: Monday, 28 Mar 2011, 7:15 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 28 Mar 2011, 10:23 AM CDT