Responding in a Time of Crisis: Issues of Concern

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[ Date Unknown] Responding in a Time of Crisis
Issues of Concern
Abbey Information

Compliance with the Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
Monks and Priests Are Not above the Law
Neither are Monks Beneath the Law
The Meaning of “Restrictions”
An Offending Monk Is Not Automatically Expelled
Monastic and Clerical Dress
Financial Settlements
Confidentiality
Asking Victims to Come Forward
University Information

Letter from the President

SJU is Committed to Campus Safety

The Monastic Presence on Campus Remains Powerful and Positive

Restricted Access to University Facilities

The University’s Enrollment Outlook Remains Positive

Alumni and Friends: A Strong Foundation of Support

University Resources Remain Sound

Relationship to the Abbey

Prep School Information

Letter from the President

Commitment to Human Rights and Safety

Monastic Presence

Outlook

Alumni/ae of Saint John’s Prep

Relationship to Saint John’s Abbey

Abbey Information

Compliance with the Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

Saint John’s Abbey follows the requirements of the Bishops’ Charter that abusers “be permanently removed from ministry.” If they are priests, they may not celebrate Mass publicly. They will be assigned non-ministerial work in the monastery. Although the Bishops’ Charter applies these restrictions only to ordained priests and deacons who have abused minors, Saint John’s applies restrictions to all monks, ordained and non-ordained, who have abused any person, regardless of age.

Monks and Priests Are Not Above the Law

Minnesota state law requires that any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult must be reported to law enforcement authorities. Saint John’s Abbey will continue to comply fully with the law, to cooperate with law enforcement authorities and to make available any information required by law or requested by authorities.

In some instances, state laws bar civil authorities from responding to allegations of abuse that occurred several years ago. Saint John’s Abbey’s policy is to offer assistance to all victims regardless of when the abuse occurred and, depending on the findings of investigation, to restrict any monk who has abused another person.

In its concern for victims, Saint John’s Abbey encourages persons who believe they have been victims to come forth and report the abuse either to the Abbot or to a victim’s advocate. Typically the Abbey seeks to negotiate a meeting of the abuser and the victim with the goal of achieving an acknowledgement, an apology and, hopefully, reconciliation. The Abbey is committed to providing support to assist each victim in the process of healing, including compensation for therapy as long as it is necessary and regardless how long ago the offense occurred.

Neither Are Monks Beneath the Law

The Abbey does not discourage a victim from taking legal action. It does explain that such action usually places plaintiffs and defendants in adversarial roles. If legal action is taken, the Abbey must recognize that accused monks have the same legal rights as any citizen. Those rights will not be waived. The Abbey will ask its legal counsel to assure that accused monks receive competent legal representation and all lawful protection of their rights.

Finally, beyond the Abbey’s responsibility to protect its members’ legal rights, liability insurance carriers expect their clients to act within the law to defend their rights.

The Meaning of “Restrictions”

If a monk is accused of sexual abuse, Saint John’s Abbey notifies civil authorities as required by law. The monk is immediately removed from his work, the accusation is investigated, and the person who brought forth the allegation is offered appropriate assistance. If the investigation supports the charge that abuse occurred, the monk is placed on restriction and he begins a permanent program of therapy, evaluation and rehabilitation.

An external review board will be established soon to serve the Diocese of Saint Cloud and Saint John’s Abbey. Any future allegations of sexual abuse will be submitted to this board for review.

Monks “on restriction” have no pastoral, teaching or unsupervised social contact with students or other young persons. They are not allowed to work in the Preparatory School or University, to use most campus academic, athletic or social facilities, or to serve in parishes. They may not travel without permission.

The purpose of these restrictions is to assure a safe environment for all who live, study, or work at Saint John’s by removing the monk who has offended from situations in which abuse might occur. The Abbot informs the other monastic superiors, work supervisors and appropriate colleagues of monks who are restricted. These restrictions are reviewed bi-annually.

Ordained monks on restriction are not allowed to celebrate Mass publicly, administer the sacraments, or serve as spiritual directors.

An Offending Monk is Not Automatically Expelled

A monastic community and the individuals who join it make mutual pledges of support. The monk takes specific vows, and the community welcomes him as a member of the monastic family. Human frailty remains a challenge for monks just as it does for all humans and, as it cares for the physical and emotional frailty of its members, the monastic community takes quite seriously St. Benedict’s admonition in his Rule for Monasteries: “Let the Abbot always keep his own frailty in mind, and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken.”

If charges of sexual impropriety are brought against a member of the monastic community he is immediately removed from his position pending an investigation. If the investigation supports the allegations, the monk is fired from his position and may never again do the work of ministry for which he was trained.

In addition, the offending monk is placed on restriction with limited access to University facilities and is not allowed access to the Preparatory School. He may not travel away from the Abbey without permission. Typically, sexual impropriety has occurred when boundaries have been crossed in a close friendship that had developed over a period of time. Monks who have abused others are restricted from social spaces and situations in which such close friendships could result.

The monk is sent to a residential therapy program for several months and when he returns to the Abbey his rehabilitation program includes continued therapy, involvement in a support group and frequent meetings with his monastic superiors. It is a program to heal, not to break the bruised reed, and to help frail men renew their commitment to the search for God in the monastic way of life.

In regular conferences, the monk and his superiors review his progress toward renewing his commitment to living a chaste monastic life. If over time it becomes clear that the monk is unable or unwilling to keep his vow of chastity, he decides to leave or is asked to leave the monastic community.

Of the monks living under restriction at Saint John’s Abbey, some have participated in the strict program of supervision, therapy and group support for as long as ten years. There have been no allegations against any of the monks for any recurrence of sexual impropriety during their ongoing supervision and therapy.

Monastic and Clerical Dress

All monks of Saint John’s Abbey wear a monastic habit as a sign of their commitment to the Benedictine way of life and of membership in the Abbey. Monks who are ordained sometimes wear clerical dress (a clerical collar), especially when involved in pastoral ministry. Monks under restriction for sexual misconduct are removed from all pastoral ministry and from contact with young people and vulnerable adults, but remain members of the monastic community. In that capacity, they may continue to wear the monastic habit. We expect implementation of the provisions of the Bishops’ Charter regarding appropriate dress in a community such as Saint John’s to be reviewed and clarified at a meeting of the national Conference of Major Superiors of Men in August.

Financial Settlements

The Abbey has made financial settlements with victims of sexual abuse. The number and amount of settlements will remain confidential. The funds for settlements have come from insurance carriers and income earned by the monks of the Abbey.

Confidentiality

Victims are not asked to sign an agreement requiring silence about the fact or nature of the abuse or exploitation that they may have suffered. They are not asked to protect the anonymity of the accused monk. If a victim accepts financial assistance for counseling or a financial settlement, he or she is asked to sign a statement that keeps the amount confidential and acknowledges that the settlement is not an admission of legal wrongdoing that can be used in a subsequent legal action. Such a statement is standard practice recommended by legal counsel and commonly used for settlements of any kind.

Asking Victims to Come Forward

Victims who are suffering from sexual abuse are often under the impression that they are at fault, that they are alone, and that they will not be believed if they come forward. Because of our desire to help those who were hurt and to begin a process for healing Abbot John Klassen invites anyone who may have been abused to write him or call him at 320-363-2544 or toll free at 866-508-4466. You may prefer to contact independent abuse advocates Mr. Tom Klecker (320-253-2866) or Ms Maxine Barnett (320-253-6900; maxine@annamaries.org). They are totally independent of Saint John’s.

University Information

Saint John’s University is Committed to Campus Safety

Saint John’s works hard to provide a safe environment for our students – a place where they can grow in knowledge and understanding while they develop spiritually and emotionally, a place where every individual is treated with dignity and respect. The University has clearly articulated human rights and sexual abuse policies and programs designed to prevent the occurrence of abuse and exploitation, to raise awareness of human rights issues, and to prepare our students and staff to be active participants and leaders in their faith and civic communities. Workshops and orientation sessions for faculty and staff, classes on “Skills for Healthy Living” for first-year students, and a student-peer educator project are among those measures. The human rights Web site, at www.csbsju.edu/humanrights, details the University’s commitments and identifies the staff members charged with administering and enforcing our human rights policies, programs, and procedures.

The Monastic Presence on Campus Remains Powerful and Positive

Almost 70 percent of all Saint John’s students identify a member of the monastic community as a mentor or role model. As faculty, staff and administrators, members of the monastic community have an overwhelmingly positive impact on our students’ educational and spiritual development. Students tell us they value these relationships and regard interactive opportunities as a unique asset of the Saint John’s experience. Benedictine Tradition

Restricted Access to University Facilities

Monks who have sexually abused young people are not allowed to have pastoral or unsupervised social contact with our students or other young people. They are restricted from most University academic, athletic or social facilities, and are not allowed access to the Preparatory School.

The University’s Enrollment Outlook Remains Positive

The University has received only one cancellation notice from an incoming student and there have been no withdrawal notices from continuing students as a result of the recent negative media attention. We have received some phone calls from parents and we have responded to each call individually. We have made no changes in our long-term enrollment outlook, though we never take for granted our students’ decision to enroll here. We work to earn their trust, respect and support. That commitment remains. We are absolutely committed to providing a high quality educational experience. The needs of our students have always been and remain our highest priority.

Alumni and Friends: A Strong Foundation of Support

We have received many phone calls from our alumni and friends expressing a range of emotions, the vast majority of which have been supportive of both Saint John’s University and Saint John’s Abbey. The sense of community at the root of our Benedictine tradition and the Saint John’s experience provides guidance for us as we attempt to demonstrate compassionate leadership in this time of spiritual challenge.

Like all private colleges, Saint John’s University relies on the generosity of alumni and friends to support educational improvements and provide financial assistance to students. Our commitment to educational excellence and accessibility has earned the trust of many; we have just completed the most successful annual fund year in our history with a record number of donors. We continue to strive toward a level of excellence that will inspire generosity among our alumni and friends, and they assure us that they will continue to support our commitment to a high quality, value-based, educational experience for our students.

University Resources Remain Sound

Some have asked if financial settlements by the Abbey with victims will have an impact on University resources. No tuition dollars, donor gifts or university funds have been used for financial settlements made by Saint John’s Abbey. Minnesota Charitable Trust law affords protection to gifts designated to Saint John’s University for educational purposes.

Relationship to the Abbey

Saint John’s (The Order of Saint Benedict) is one corporation with four operating divisions: the Abbey, the University, the Preparatory School and the Liturgical Press. Saint John’s University has its own Board of Regents and governance structures.

Prep School Information

Commitment to Human Rights and Safety

It is essential that Saint John’s Preparatory School students are able to learn, live and socialize in a safe environment. Their physical safety is of paramount importance. SJP’s Employee Handbook addresses the school’s Child Abuse Reporting Policy that adheres to the Minnesota law and requirements for mandatory reporting, and also follows the Order of Saint Benedict’s Human Rights Policy and Sexual Assault Policy. Each school year, two student sessions are dedicated to building awareness about safety and human rights issues. Twice a year, faculty and staff review safety policies to ensure a safe environment for all students. Teachers, counselors and staff are ready to assist in explaining and enforcing these important concepts.

Monastic Presence

Saint John’s was founded by Benedictine monks in 1857. The monastic presence and interaction with students, faculty and staff have been and continue to be an important part of the Saint John’s experience. Today, monks work as administrators, teachers, campus ministers, and skilled artisans.

Monks who have been restricted by Abbot John Klassen for sexual misconduct are not allowed to work at or be in the Prep School buildings at any time. Monks “on restriction” have no pastoral, teaching or any contact with students or other young persons. They may not serve in parishes, are not allowed access to the Preparatory School and are restricted from most University academic, athletic or social facilities. They may not travel without permission.

These restrictions help to assure a safe environment for all who live, study, or work at Saint John’s.

Outlook

Today, families choose Saint John’s Prep for its excellent academic program. In this program, students are intellectually challenged and graduate prepared for success in college. Moral and spiritual development is also an important aspect of the program. Because of an increase in enrollment over the past five years, the school has added new facilities for fine arts, science labs and classrooms and administrative offices.

The school is dedicated to providing the best possible education for current and future students. In the long term, the school’s focus is on securing and advancing opportunities for generations of Prep students to come.

Alumni/ae of Saint John’s Prep

In the last several years, Saint John’s Prep has worked to expand the involvement of alumni/ae in the school. The result has been a resurgence of support and commitment. These relationships are valued and important to the continued success of the school. Among other things, the generosity of the alums has helped to improve facilities and to provide financial assistance for students who would otherwise be unable to enroll here

Abbot John Klassen, on behalf of Saint John’s, has written to all Prep School alumni/ae expressing sorrow, apology, and a desire to help heal and bring reconciliation to all people affected by the abuse. Abbot John has invited any alum with concerns, issues or information to contact him.

The school welcomes any opportunity to join with alumni/ae, past and current parents and friends who gather for mutual support. Together all may share concerns and can embark on a process for healing.

Relationship to Saint John’s Abbey

Saint John’s (The Order of Saint Benedict) is one corporation with four operating divisions: The Abbey, the University, the Preparatory School and the Liturgical Press. Saint John’s Prep has its own Board of Regents and governance structures.

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