Fri 8/21/2015 12:31 PM
Dear Saint John’s Friends, Faculty and Staff,
Many of you are aware through stories that started circulating in the media yesterday that Fr. Tom Andert, who has been the Prior of Saint John’s Abbey, has stepped down from that role. The initial report in the media was factual, but false information and invented stories have developed as the news spread. The facts that should have been reported are simple: Saint John’s received a letter from a person who claims that, thirty years ago, he was sexually abused and, upon receipt of this letter, we did exactly what we are committed and required to do.
Here is the statement we released to media outlets yesterday:
Abbot John Klassen has taken immediate action in response to a letter from a former Saint John’s Prep student. The letter alleged sexual misconduct by Father Tom Andert more than three decades ago, but had very few details. In spite of the lack of detail in the allegation, we have implemented our policy and taken the following actions:
- We referred the letter writer to a Victim’s Advocate and offered support for counseling.
- We asked Father Andert to step back from public ministry and from his work until an investigation is completed. Fr. Brad Jenniges, OSB, has been made the interim Prior at Saint John’s Abbey.
These steps are not required by our policy, but left to prudential judgment, which the Abbot has chosen to exercise. In fairness to all involved and because the complainant requested strict confidentiality, we will be releasing no further information until a determination of fact can be made.
Some media outlets reported erroneously that Saint John’s failed in its duty as a mandatory reporter. This is untrue. Because the reported incident is alleged to have occurred three decades ago and was reported by an adult person, the Minnesota mandatory reporting statute does not apply.
In addition, the reporting person specifically requested that his report be kept confidential. Since the Abbey respects the person’s right to keep this information private, we did not make any report to law enforcement. The Abbey promptly provided the reporting person with the contact information for the Stearns County Sheriff, and advised him that he has the right and opportunity to make a report to law enforcement.
We know that when such negative publicity runs through the media it creates sadness and stress for all employees and friends of Saint John’s. At the same time, victims of sexual abuse have often suffered sadness and stress for years. When a report is received, even without factual details, Saint John’s concern for the alleged victim is what dictates our policies and our implementation of them. Please keep all involved in your prayers and thoughts.
Blessings to all, especially those beginning a new school year!
Abbot John Klassen, OSB