Abbey needs to address allegations with public (Editorial)

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The latest round of sexual misconduct allegations involving Catholic clergy with ties to Central Minnesota hinges on two very familiar themes – truth and trust.

St. John’s Abbey stands accused of not doing enough to separate an accused monk and potential victims for at least a five-year period. Making the accusation is Pat Marker, a molestation victim who had attended St. John’s Preparatory School.

Marker, an outspoken critic of clergy abuse, resigned his seat on the abbey’s external review board last week over the matter. This week he launched a Web site about clergy sex abuse at St. John’s and sent its leaders and Twin Cities Archbishop Harry Flynn a letter demanding explanations.

An abbey spokesman told the Times on Wednesday it would contact Marker directly but would not “engage in a media debate with him.”

That disappoints us because we believe public discussion and debate of this issue is paramount to fostering trust, not to mention getting at the truth.

Haven’t Catholic Church leaders learned by now that many people of all faiths view the church’s failure to report abuse allegations to law enforcement for decades as almost as grievous as the abuse itself?

Fortunately in this case, there is a group that can help get at trust and truth. It’s the abbey’s external review board.

We call on members of this board to share with the public what they know, their opinions on whether Marker’s claims have veracity and if abbey leaders did do all they could to protect potential victims.

It is our belief that when the Catholic Church created these external review boards about four years ago in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis, one of their main purposes was to be a watchdog on how church leaders handled situations just like this.

Obviously, Marker believes the abbey didn’t do enough in handling allegations made against the Rev. Michael Bik in 1997. They include accusations of incidents with two teen-age boys in the 1970s, before he joined St. John’s Abbey and before his ordination.

Marker’s main issue is that Bik continued to work at St. John’s Prep through 2002, five years after the allegations were known by the abbey.

In addition, Marker claims that prep school students were even told to see Bik “for support” in the wake of the abbey settling lawsuits against several of its members in 2002.

In 2003, Marker said the review board asked about “all allegations against members of the community,” but Bik’s name was not brought forward for months.

Bik – and the Revs. Bruce Wollmering and Robert Blumeyer – were named in a July 28 statement by the abbey concerning alleged sexual misconduct from the 1970s and 1980s.

In the past few years, this editorial board has praised the abbey for its overall handling of clergy sex abuse matters. However, Marker raises some serious questions that deserve honest answers.

If the abbey doesn’t want to answer them publicly, we call on its external review board to do so immediately. Truth and trust hinge on it.

Our View: Abbey needs to address allegations with public
St. Cloud Times Editorial Board
August 25, 2006

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Topics: Bruce Wollmering, Editorial, Harry Flynn, John Klassen, Michael Bik, Review Board, Robert Blumeyer

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