Suit says St. Luke clergy treatment center failed to protect victims

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(Star Tribune) Lawyers filed suit Tuesday morning in St. Paul against a Catholic-run treatment facility that cared for an abusive priest who then was sent to a new parish where he allegedly targeted a 10-year-old boy for years of repeated abuse.

Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney who filed the suit on behalf of “Doe 27,” said it is the first lawsuit under Minnesota’s new Child Victims Act to name St. Luke Institute as a defendant. The facility in Silver Spring, Md., has been a destination for the treatment of Minnesota Catholic monks and priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of children, other sexual misconduct and addiction. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville are also being sued in the case.

Coupled with a separate sexual abuse lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of a victim of another priest, the archdiocese has been sued at least 21 times since the Child Victims Act lifted the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases and gave past victims a three-year window to bring previously barred claims.

Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for St. Luke Institute, said she had not seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. The archdiocese could not be reached immediately for comment.

Sent to St. Luke in 1984

According to the latest complaint, the Rev. Francis Hoefgen, now 63, admitted to police in Cold Spring, Minn., that he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy while assigned to St. Boniface of Cold Spring in 1983. Then-Abbot Jerome Theisen, who was in charge of monks and priests from St. John’s Abbey, learned of the abuse in March 1984 and directed him to St. Luke’s, where he stayed for about six months.

In July 1985, Hoefgen was jointly assigned by the Benedictine Order at St. John’s and the Archdiocese in St. Paul to serve at St. Boniface in Hastings, which merged with Guardian Angels parish in 1987 to become St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The lawsuit alleges that St. Luke’s, St. John’s Abbey and the archdiocese concealed Hoefgen’s past sexual abuse and failed to warn parents in Hastings even though they were aware that child molesters have a high-rate of recidivism.

Patrick Wall, a former priest who now works in Anderson’s law firm, was assigned to replace Hoefgen in Hastings.

“Fran is the lion, these guys are the lion tamers, and they turned him loose on Hastings,” Wall said at the news conference Tuesday. “That’s the sad part. They knew.”

Hoefgen began abusing 10-year-old boy in the parish in 1989, the suit alleges. The abuse continued through 1992, when the boy turned 13.

“Children, including plaintiff, and their families were not told what the Order, the Archdiocese and St. Luke’s each knew or should have known — that Hoefgen had sexually molested children previously and that Hoefgen was a danger to them,” the lawsuit states.

Like other suits by Anderson, the latest one presses for the archdiocese to release the names of 33 priests in the archdiocese and 17 other clerics at the Abbey who have been credibly accused of sexually molesting children. In 2011 as part of a separate case, St. John’s temporarily released the names of the 17 credibly accused Benedictines, but Tuesday’s lawsuit alleges that the list was later removed from the St. John’s website and is no longer publicly available.

“As a result, children are at risk for being sexually molested,” Anderson wrote in his lawsuit.

Hoefgen’s admitted sexual abuse in Cold Spring was investigated by police, but did not result in criminal charges. It was not immediately clear if the alleged abuse in Hastings was ever reported to police.

Anderson released a document Tuesday showing that a psychiatrist wrote a letter on St. Luke Institute letterhead in March 1984 to the Cold Spring police chief. The psychiatrist and founding president of St. Luke Institute, the Rev. Michael Peterson, apologized for not consulting with police about his “strong recommendation” that Hoefgen immediately leave Minnesota for a psychiatric evaluation. The letter describes St. Luke’s as a facility that deals exclusively with clergy who have “chemical dependency problems as well as other psychological problems.”

“I would also appreciate it if you could inform me as to the status of formal charges against Father Hoefgen,” wrote Peterson, who is now deceased.

Another document released by Anderson shows that St. Cloud area Bishop John F. Kinney made an official visit to St. Luke Institute in May 2003 at the request of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington. “We found the theological and spiritual principles underlying the programs of St. Luke Institute to be in complete harmony with the teaching of the church,” Kinney wrote.

In a separate lawsuit filed Monday in St. Paul, attorney Patrick Noaker of Minnetonka filed a childhood sexual abuse complaint on behalf of a man who now lives in Colorado. The suit accuses the late Rev. William Marks, who has been implicated in other abuse cases, of abuse that occurred when the man was 10 to 14 years old at St. John’s Catholic Church in Hector, Minn. The child was an altar boy and the priest allegedly abused him before and after mass. Marks was employed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, along with the Diocese of New Ulm, from 1948 to 1979, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint said the archdiocese had knowledge of Marks’ misconduct but did not act on it.

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Suit says St. Luke clergy treatment center failed to protect victims
Tony Kennedy and Richard Meryhew
Star Tribune
November 19, 2013 – 12:59 PM

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Topics: Fran Hoefgen, Jeff Anderson, John Kinney, Patrick Wall, St. Luke's

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