(SC Times) A man who lives in the state of Virginia has sued the St. Cloud diocese and former deacon Michael Weber, accusing Weber of sexual abuse and the diocese of covering it up.
The lawsuit is another blow to an otherwise stellar career that saw Weber, a Foley native and St. John’s University graduate, hold high-ranking positions in agencies focused on protecting children from abuse and neglect.
The allegations in the lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County and announced at a news conference Tuesday by attorney Jeff Anderson, reference three male victims who have accused Weber of sexually abusing them from 1968-1970.
“We have good information of five victims that have credibly disclosed” abuse against them by Weber, Anderson said. “We believe there are more.”
Some of the abuse is alleged to have happened at Weber’s family home in Foley. The Virginia man accuses Weber of abusing him during an Alexandria camping trip in the summer of 1970 that the boy’s family took with other Catholic families.
The Virginia man, known in court documents at John Doe HT, identified himself to reporters Tuesday by his first name, Terry. He was 6 at the time of the alleged abuse. The civil complaint accused Weber of establishing a relationship with Terry by offering him bubble gum. Weber asked the boy to stay in his tent with him, and the boy’s parents allowed the boy to do that because they trusted Weber. Part of that trust was based on the belief that Weber was a religious leader, a deacon who wore a priest’s collar when he met Terry’s parents.
Terry accuses Weber of sexually abusing him during the night, and when Terry woke up in the morning he ran screaming from the tent, according to the lawsuit.
In an interview Tuesday, Terry said he was at a Dec. 4 listening session at Church of the Holy Spirit in St. Cloud, where Weber worked as a deacon in late 1969 and 1970. The listening session was scheduled after the diocese received what it called “credible allegations” against Weber.
A woman at the session stood and told a story of a camping trip in the summer of 1970 in Alexandria. She told the audience that she recalled hearing a young boy scream during the night at the camp.
“I stood up and said that was me,” Terry said in an interview Tuesday.
Shortly after the tent incident, he told his parents what happened, and his parents met the next day with a counselor from Caritas Family Service Agency who was a friend of Weber’s.
The lawsuit accuses the counselor, identified as Dan Carle, of telling the boy’s parents that Weber “was sick and that he had been counseling” Weber. Carle allegedly remarked that Weber “wasn’t ready” and that Carle had “gambled and lost.” Carle also acknowledged to the boy’s parents that he had treated Weber for pedophilia, according to the lawsuit.
A message left today for Carle, who lives in St. Cloud and continues to run a counseling service, was not immediately returned. Weber has not returned repeated messages left for him seeking his comment.
The lawsuit alleges that the diocese failed to protect Terry even though it knew about allegations against Weber before Terry was assaulted in 1970 in Alexandria.
In 1967, Weber became a mentor to Rick Stolpman, who was 11 at the time, through a program that mentored to children of widows in the St. Cloud area.
Stolpman filed a report last month with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office in which he accused Weber of abusing him in 1968 or 1969 after the two attended a hockey game in the Twin Cities. Stolpman reported the alleged abuse to another counselor at Catholic Charities, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also accuses Weber of abusing Stolpman’s cousin, David Schrom, when Schrom was 11 in 1969.
Weber remained in the diocese as a transitional deacon until April 1972, when Weber requested laicization from the Vatican. The Vatican granted Weber’s request in July 1972.
The sexual misconduct allegations against Weber were reported first in the Times in late November, and the diocese had a listening session Dec. 4. The diocese scheduled a second listening session for Monday.
After the allegations surfaced, Weber resigned from several organizations, including his position as a board member of the Greater Twin Cities United Way and as president and CEO of Volunteers of America-Minnesota.
Weber’s career in child protection saw him attain jobs as director of Hennepin County Community Services Department and assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. He also served as an associate director of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, director of the Program for the Community Protection of Children and chairman of the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The lawsuit accuses Carle of telling the parents not to report the Alexandria incident to police and to “play down the abuse” because Terry was “young and probably would not remember the incident,” according to the lawsuit.
Terry wasn’t aware of Weber’s name until three weeks ago, he said Tuesday. He didn’t know whether his parents had done anything about the abuse allegation until he was 17 and was in treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, he said. There was discussion in his family about what Weber had allegedly done to him 11 years earlier.
Terry had no idea what Weber had gone on to do with his life, he said in an interview Tuesday. Then Terry’s mother called three weeks ago, just after reading the Times’ first article about allegations against Weber and the listening session that had been scheduled.
Terry flew back for the listening session and then contacted Anderson.
The listening session was a chance for victims to speak about what happened to them, Terry said. And the last three weeks have contained more healing for him and his family than the previous 40 years combined, he said.
But there remains a haunting question that Terry still has about himself.
“My life is a series of rocky roads,” Terry said in the Tuesday interview. “Not all of it, but a series of rocky roads. I know what I am. I know what happened to me. What I don’t know is what my life would have been if this hadn’t happened.”
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Victim discusses case against St. Cloud diocese, former deacon
St. Cloud Times
December 13, 2011