(KMSP 5) Two brothers who say they were sexually abused by a priest affiliated with a Minnesota abbey filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the religious order that runs the abbey and its preparatory school, as well as their alleged abuser.
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The anonymous plaintiffs, now 40 and 37, grew up and still live in North Carolina and were altar boys who served with the Rev. Francisco Schulte when he worked at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, N.C., in the mid-1980s.
The older of the two says Schulte began molesting him in 1984, when he was 14 and traveled with the older man as the priest ministered to Hispanics Catholics in the Raleigh diocese. The suit says Schulte recruited the boy to enroll at St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, where the abuse continued.
His brother says he was molested by Schulte beginning in 1986, when he was 12.
Schulte, 57, belongs to the Order of St. Benedict, which operates the prep school and St. John’s Abbey at St. John’s University in Collegeville. The lawsuit claims the abuse happened while Schulte was under the order’s supervision, and the brothers’ attorney, Jeff Anderson, said the order’s leaders have known about various allegations against Schulte for some time.
A statement posted on the abbey’s website said Abbot Jerome Theisen received an allegation in 1992 that Schulte engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor in 1984. From then until June 2002,
Schulte lived at the abbey with “prudent, non-risk” limitations on his ministry, it said.
Schulte began a three-year leave in 2003 and spent time in Italy and Mexico, where superiors were apprised of his situation, the abbey said. He spent much of 2007 and 2008 with family in North Carolina, then returned to Italy again under supervision, it said.
When abbey officials learned in April that Schulte might be sued, Abbot John Klassen asked him to return to St. John’s Abbey, “which he chose to do,” the statement said.
Abbey spokesman Brother Paul Richards said Schulte has returned to the abbey but neither he nor abbey officials would comment on the lawsuit.
Anderson has frequently sued priests, other Catholic officials and religious orders over abuse allegations.
He said Tuesday that St. John’s Abbey should have done more to discipline Schulte or taken steps to strip his priesthood, given that Anderson himself reached a settlement with the Abbey in 2002 in which officials there pledged to take unprecedented steps to address past abuse and prevent it in the future.
“I gave them credit then, and I wish I could today,” said Anderson, who previously represented a dozen abuse victims with claims against numerous priests and monks at the Abbey.
The statement from St. John’s Abbey said Schulte served as chaplain at St. John’s Preparatory School from 1980 to 1983 and again from 1986 to 1988. It said he has not been allowed to perform sacramental ministry as a priest since 2002.
Patrick Marker, an activist who says he was abused at the abbey and has worked to expose priest abuse, is working with Anderson on the lawsuit. He said he believes that during much of the time Schulte was supposedly under restriction by the abbey, he actually worked frequently with college students and, at times, younger students.
The lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul seeks unspecified damages.
May 18, 2010