StarTribune Opinion Page


There was nothing new in your Sept. 29 story about St. John’s Abbey, “Behind the pine curtain.” We have read it all before in the Star Tribune and other Minnesota newspapers. I’m afraid the Star Tribune has succumbed to sensationalism and poor journalism just to sell papers, regardless of the hurt and harm to so very many good people at St. John’s.

Besides giving us a “rewrite,” you failed to include some of the most positive things that Abbot Timothy Kelly (Abbot John Klassen’s predecessor) did during his tenure from 1992-2000. An oversight or an intentional exclusion?

– Dolores Schuh, C.H.M., Collegeville, Minn.

Bylaws say `amputation’

Many worthwhile organizations administer an oath to new members committing them to objectives and rules, violation of which is cause for expulsion. St. John’s Abbey was such an organization whose priests and monks proudly displayed the initials O.S.B. after their name; standing for the Order of St. Benedict, a sixth-century monk. His rules for monasteries provided a framework for the successful administration of monasteries for the next 14 centuries.

I was provided a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict my freshman year at St. John’s University in 1975. After reading the Star Tribune’s front page articles of Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, I consulted the rule regarding statements that the Benedictine Orders policy permits monks who molested children to remain as monks. I do not doubt this is current policy. However I believe it is an abrogation of their bylaws which give the abbot the authority and the responsibility under Chapter 28 to use the knife of amputation to “expel the evil one from your midst.” And, “If the faithless one departs, let him depart, lest one diseased sheep contaminates the whole flock.”

Anything short of expulsion can only be attributed to institutionally self-destructive behavior or some ill-conceived notion of forgiveness which bears no relationship to requirements of the Rule. And the other positive steps taken from St. John’s are cast in a shadow.

– James A. Vallez, Maple Grove; Class of ’79, St. John’s.

Considering celibacy

The church is seeking to make amends and restore trust. But one aspect of this dark plight needs more consideration. The vow of celibacy is a lofty ideal, which many have been able to honor. But for others who had good intentions, a life of total sexual abstinence and purity proved beyond their ability.

The celibacy requirement is not given in the New Testament. St. Paul mentions the advantages of the single state, but does not make it a must. St. Peter was married. The Roman Catholic Church could have prevented a lot of deplorable conduct in the ranks of its clergy had it stuck to the Bible. Therefore, at least some of the blame goes beyond the erring brothers of the cloth, and resides at the church itself.

– Peter Wiering, Minneapolis.


As a student at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary and a friend of many of the monks of St. John’s Abbey, I was saddened by your Sept. 29 article. The obvious nonnegotiable here is that sex with children is always wrong. Further, any relationship in which one person uses her or his power or authority to coerce another to perform sexual acts is a violation of the other person’s freedom and dignity.

Celibacy is frequently misunderstood. Celibacy includes sexual abstinence, but it cannot be reduced simply to a prohibition against sex.

When a monk renounces sexual relationships, he does not automatically become an asexual being, incapable of becoming physically attracted to another or “falling in love.” To live as a celibate is to redirect one’s passion for others, this good energy, into a life of prayer and service. As St. John’s Abbey comes to terms with past instances of abuse, the monks show me today that it is possible to live celibacy with integrity and witness to a deep faith.

– Brian Reusch, Collegeville, Minn.

Many rise above training

Those who are revealed as sexual abusers will now be coming forth with expressions of sorrow, but also of  “confusion about their sexuality,” and other excuses.

They may be partially right. Consider this recipe for disaster: Take a 12-year-old boy, put him into an all-male environment and drum into his head that women are evil, or at best inferior. Have him taught by celibate men who are probably just as ignorant about sex as he is. Convince him that because he has a special calling, he is superior to the rest of the human race.

Keep this up for 14 years, and then ordain him in a ceremony befitting a Roman emperor. Finally throw him into an environment, such as a high school or youth ministry, where attractive young people abound.

Fortunately, the seminary system has changed in recent decades, but its results are still with us. The only surprise here is that thousands of decent, hard-working priests have the moral fiber and common sense to rise above their training and serve the church and its people well.

– Jesse Lovelace, Melrose, Minn.; B.A., St. John’s University, 1964.

The medium of secrecy

The most disturbing aspect of Catholic priests’ misconduct is the secrecy maintained by the victims and their parents, enabling a sexually abusive culture to fruitfully multiply. The Catholic Church belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest dysfunctional family.

– Jeff White, Shoreview.

Well done, Star Tribune

Reporters Paul McEnroe and Pam Louwagie as well as the Star Tribune itself deserve a Pulitzer Prize for community service in revealing the sinful and disgusting behavior that has been going on at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville over the past four decades. Catholics who would move our church toward greater accountability would be unaware were it not for the paper revealing the secrecy and facts surrounding perpetrators and their sexual abuses committed both at the abbey and in surrounding communities.

Thank you for your very responsible journalism.

– Margery K. English, Apple Valley.

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Topics: Dolores Schuh, John Klassen, Opinion, Timothy Kelly

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