In an email to the St. John’s community dated April 12, 2011, [ View ] Abbot John Klassen’s wrote, “Some of you may be asking why the issue of abuse keeps coming back in the media.”
Abbot Klassen never answers the question. Instead, he changes the subject.
“The cases that we settled are not for recent misconduct. Individuals come forward when they are ready to deal with the impact of the misconduct.”
Here’s the answer:
The media, the general public, and a growing number of once sympathetic St. John’s community members remain interested because St. John’s Abbey refuses to fully disclose the names of those current and former members of its community against whom credible allegations of misconduct have been made.
The media remains interested because of what the Abbey did not do.
Members of the St. John’s Abbey community reportedly knew about abuse perpetrated by Fr. Francisco Schulte for over 25 years. It wasn’t until May of 2010 that St. John’s made Fr. Schulte’s name public, as a result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of two North Carolina brothers. When other victims heard Schulte’s name, they stepped forward to get help and (in at least one instance) support other Schulte victims.
How do I know this? I spoke with some of Schulte’s victims. Then I went to the Abbot.
After mass on June 6, 2010, Abbot John Klassen and I spoke for over 20 minutes. We discussed new victims who contacted me, a declining monk population and an abuse policy that was not working. I suggested that we meet to (1) discuss how to move forward with these new victims and (2) discuss a real plan to address the issue of abuse so that the abbey could avoid future embarrassment. The abbot agreed to meet.
On June 24, 2010, however, Abbot Klassen wrote in an email, “On reflection, I don’t think a meeting is necessary.”
Had the abbey disclosed Schulte’s name when they first learned of his abuse or had the abbot kept our meeting, Schulte’s victims would likely not have been present at the press conference on March 28, 2011.
Will more Schulte victims come forward? They already have.
Members of the St. John’s Abbey community knew about abuse perpetrated by Fr. Bruce Wollmering since the mid-1970’s. It wasn’t until 2006 that St. John’s made Fr. Wollmering’s name public.
St. John’s made Wollmering’s name public, in part, due to the story of one of the victims who settled recently. Another victim came forward after they finally made his name public. I believe that one of the victims would have come forward earlier if St. John’s had made Wollmering’s name public when they first learned of his misconduct, 30 years earlier. Had they made such a disclosure, I’d like to think that Fr. Wollmering would not have had access to the second victim.
Will more Wollmering victims come forward? They already have.
At the press conference on March 28, 2011 the names of seventeen monks were announced. The list of seventeen was newsworthy, but why?
Because of the size of the list?
Because it included the name of a monk, Br. Stephen Lilly, known to St. John’s Abbey since 1992?
Because it didn’t include the name of Fr. Robert Blumeyer (#18), a name made public by St. John’s Abbey in 2006?
Because it didn’t include the name of Fr. James Kelly (#19), who was dismissed by St. John’s Abbey in 1973 after credible claims of misconduct?
Because it didn’t include the name of Br. Robert Burke (#20), Fr. Peregrin Berres (#21) Fr. Mathias Faue (#22) against whom credible allegations have been made?
Because it didn’t include the names of Br. Paschal Brisson (#23) and Rev. Pirmim Wendt (#24), who were part of the recent settlement?
Had St. John’s disclosed the names of these twenty-four offenders years ago, there would not have been a news event two weeks ago, a letter from the abbot today, or two listening sessions tomorrow.
In the two weeks since the “issue of abuse” came back in the media, more victims have come forward.
Two days ago I offered to meet with the abbot to discuss these victims and their new, potentially crippling, allegations. I offered to help the abbot take a proactive approach. He has not responded.
When the stories of these new victims are told, it will once again be newsworthy… because of what St. John’s Abbey did not do.