(Fox 9) “I hope you die a thousand deaths” — shocking and violent words from a Catholic monk in Minnesota whose message led to an apology from the head of St. John’s Abbey for a victim of sexual abuse — and a criminal investigation.
St. John’s Abbey is located in Collegeville, Minn., northwest of St. Cloud, Minn. A college, a prep school and a monastery that hundreds of monks of the Benedictine order have called home can be found there.
Most of the monks who lived there have never been in trouble, but in the past few days, St. John’s Abbey released a list of 18 monks who have faced credible allegations of sexual abuse.
No one has pushed harder for that release than a man named Patrick Marker. He was abused by a monk when he was a student at the prep school 30 years ago. Now, he maintains a website called Behind the Pine Curtain, which is devoted exclusively to exposing misconduct at St. John’s Abbey.
As one might expect, Marker gets mixed responses to his site.
“Everything from former students writing to share their stories and their support, and every once in a while I’ll get an e-mail from someone who doesn’t quite agree with the methods or the fact that I have anything to say about St. John’s,” Marker told the Fox 9 Investigators.
Yet, what waited in Marker’s inbox on Wednesday night was unlike anything he’d ever read before.
“I was a little shocked by the content,” Marker admitted.
Marker allowed the Fox 9 Investigators to read the missive, which read in part: “Not all of the monks are guilty. A lot of them are good people. Are you that retarded to think all of them are guilty?”
The writer penned the message in response to Marker’s decision to post not only the list of monks released by St. John’s Abbey, but also the names of all monks who have served there since 1950 . There are more than 700 in all.
“I want, when someone who searches for a monk from St. John’s on Google, to get a response no matter who it is, whether it’s a perpetrating monk or not,” Marker explained. “It’s clear on the website that not everyone is a perpetrator.”
The e-mail Marker received continues to say: “I hope you die in a car accident you f——- piece of s—-.”
“It’s threatening; it’s scary,” Marker said. “You don’t’ know who’s out there and who’s capable of what.”
The profanity continues as the writer accuses Marker of being “more of a victimizer than any of them… you j—-a–.”
“That’s the part that hurts the most — that somebody would consider a website that documents child abuse and equate my effort with someone who’s sodomized an 8-year-old boy,” Marker said.
The e-mail concludes: “Die a hundred deaths you worthless crap stain of a human being.”
“I’ve never heard language like this before,” Marker said.
Marker wanted to know where the anonymous comment came from. First, he narrowed its origin to a general location.
“Collegeville, Minnesota,” Marker found.
The search honed in on a specific place — somewhere on the St. John’s campus — before pointing to one man.
“Brother Peter Sullivan, Order of St. Benedict,” Marker discovered. “A monk at St. John’s.”
Marker believes Sullivan was upset his name was included on that list of hundreds of monks who have never been accused of anything. What bothers Marker is that Sullivan is a young monk, part of a group St. John’s Abbey has assured Marker — and others in the community — have been carefully screened and trained.
“That I can be seen as the bad guy just blows me away,” Marker said. “To me, it speaks to the culture of denial, of deception and of anger.”
St. John’s Abbey does not want the message to influence how people see its culture. Within minutes of the Fox 9 Investigators asking leaders there about the e-mail, Abbott John Klassen sent an e-mail from his personal account to Marker with a carbon copy sent to Fox 9 Investigator Trish Van Pilsum as well.
“I received your e-mail with the message that Brother Peter Sullivan sent to you. His words are utterly inappropriate under any circumstances. Be assured that I will address this matter with Peter. On behalf of him, the community and I apologize to you,” the e-mail read in full.
This summer, a Stearns County deputy made Marker leave his 30-year class reunion at St. John’s Prep School. In a letter received after the fact, St. John’s Abbey said Marker was not welcome on school grounds. It did not cite a reason. Now, Marker says a deputy has opened a case file on the monk’s e-mail.
(Fox 9) INVESTIGATORS: A monk’s message
December 15, 2013