COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota – St. John’s Abbey publications and newspaper articles from the 1990s on contradict the abbey’s own statement about the whereabouts and work history of the Rev. Francisco Schulte after the abbey received an allegation of sexual misconduct against him.
The statement issued by the abbey last week said that from February 1992 “through June of 2002, Father Francisco was living at Saint John’s Abbey with ‘prudent, non-risk’ limitations on his ministry.”
A review of abbey publications shows that Schulte in 1997 and 1998 was subprior of St. Augustine’s Monastery in the Bahamas and that he studied in Rome in 1994 to complete his doctorate.
The apparent discrepancies in the abbey’s statement were brought to light by Pat Marker, who did an extensive review of abbey publications while researching the abbey and its monks. Marker is an abuse survivor, former member of the St. John’s external review board and creator of the website www.behindthepinecurtain.com. The lawyer who filed a lawsuit last week accusing Schulte of sexually abusing two boys in the 1980s and accusing St. John’s Abbey of covering up abuse by Schulte and other monks argued that the discrepancies between the abbey’s statement and the information about Schulte in the abbey publications were not an accident. “It’s intentional deceit by omission,” Jeff Anderson said.
Repeated attempts to get comment from or an interview with abbey officials for this story were unsuccessful. Anderson sued Schulte, the abbey, the Order of St. Benedict and St. John’s Prep last week, alleging a cover-up of sexual misconduct committed by Schulte dating back to the mid-1980s. Schulte was chaplain at the prep school from 1980-1983 and 1986-1988. He was listed as a monk subject to restrictions by the abbey in the fall of 2002 because credible allegations of sexual misconduct had been made against him. The statement the abbey released in response to the lawsuit said that then-Abbot Jerome Theisen in February 1992 “received an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor in 1984 by Father Francisco Schulte.”
The statement went on to say that Schulte has lived from February 1992 until June 2002 at the abbey with “prudent, non-risk” limitations on his ministry.
The Abbey Quarterly, which was an abbey publication designed to share the life and work of the abbey monks, made mention of Schulte’s whereabouts on multiple occasions after 1992. The fall 1992 issue said Schulte was in Rome. An article in the winter 1994 issue mentions his return from Rome, his beginning teaching in the School of Theology and his work in multicultural ministry. The spring 1993 issue said Schulte had attended a dinner at the Austrian Embassy in Rome at which Abbot Theisen had received the Silver Cross of Merit of the Republic of Austria. The summer 1994 issue of Abbey Quarterly mentions that Schulte had just returned from “his doctorate in Rome” and had been named director of the School of Theology’s Monastic Institute, which was a summer program at the abbey. In the fall 1994 issue, Schulte is described as having led the School of Theology’s first Hispanic Ministry Consultation. That item read, in part, that Schulte convened “with 70 participants discussing such subjects as ministry within the migrant community.” In the spring 1997 issue, Schulte is described as being a “newcomer” to St. Augustine’s Monastery in Nassau, Bahamas.
In the summer 1997 issue, a paragraph under the heading “Confreres Traveling, Honored, In Concert …” said Schulte recently had been appointed subprior of that monastery in the Bahamas. The spring 1998 issue mentions Schulte’s service to the Spanish-language community in the Bahamas through his weekly Sunday afternoon radio broadcast.
The June 1998 issue of the American Monastic Newsletter also indicates Schulte was in Nassau at the time. The winter 2002 issue of The Abbey Banner, which replaced the Quarterly, includes a photo, credited as taken by Schulte, of the chapel of St. Augustine’s Monastery in the Bahamas, shown decorated for Christmas. And a St. Cloud Times article in January 2000 quoted Schulte at a Hispanic cultural event at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. Schulte participated in the celebration of the arrival of the Three Kings, which is a celebration of the epiphany when the Wise Men came to visit Jesus and presented him with gifts.
A Times photo that accompanied the story showed young children in line at a buffet during the celebration. Anderson accused Schulte of grooming his victims by offering private tutoring lessons in Spanish. Anderson also questioned why Schulte was removed from a list of abbey monks on restriction because credible allegations of sexual misconduct had been made against them. Just weeks before the lawsuit was filed, Schulte was at Subiaco Abbey in Italy. The abbey statement said his superiors in Rome were “apprised of his situation.” Abbot John Klassen learned of a possible lawsuit about to be filed against Schulte, the statement read, and asked Schulte to return to Collegeville, which Schulte chose to do