Your turn: Abbey defends its oversight of Schulte

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We regret and apologize for the shortcomings of the Abbey’s May 18 statement, which neither reflected changes in the past 30 years nor presented adequately the complexities of The Rev. Francisco Schulte’s situation. Moreover, although Schulte remained a member of the abbey with restrictions on his ministry, our statement erred in stating that he was “living at Saint John’s Abbey” from 1992 through 2002.

I write to respond to the May 28 St. Cloud Times news report, “Abbey Offers Differing Accounts.”

The Catholic Church and St. John’s Abbey response to allegations of sexual abuse has evolved during the past 30 years. The evolution resulted in improvements that reflect how psychotherapy professionals have gained greater knowledge and understanding of sexual abuse as well as of persons guilty of the sin and crime of abuse.

Our understanding of the term “supervision” as applied to persons credibly charged with abuse also has evolved, and it is applied more rigidly today than in the 1990s. For example, a monk accused of abuse 20 years ago might have been assigned as a chaplain in a retirement home or perhaps another “social” capacity that avoided unsupervised involvement with potential victims. Such assignments have not been possible since 2002 when the Conference of Major Superiors of Men began the work of strengthening guidelines for preventing abuse, responding to reports of abuse and supervising offenders.

We regret and apologize for the shortcomings of the Abbey’s May 18 statement, which neither reflected changes in the past 30 years nor presented adequately the complexities of The Rev. Francisco Schulte’s situation. Moreover, although Schulte remained a member of the abbey with restrictions on his ministry, our statement erred in stating that he was “living at Saint John’s Abbey” from 1992 through 2002.

While acknowledging that mistakes were made in the context of today’s norms, we believe that during the 1990s, St. John’s abbots made good-faith decisions regarding accused monks, applying their conscientious interpretation of how “supervision” was generally understood during their tenures.

Abbot Jerome Theisen, for example, approved Schulte’s request to complete theological doctoral studies in Rome thinking that he might be assigned to work exclusively with adults. During his studies he lived in a Benedictine abbey in Rome and, when Abbot Jerome became Abbot Primate and moved to Rome, Schulte lived under his supervision.

In 1997-98, Schulte was sent to St. Augustine’s Priory in Nassau, the Bahamas, a monastic community founded by St. John’s Abbey in 1891. Under the supervision of the Rev. Daniel Ward, a St. John’s monk then serving as St. Augustine’s prior, Schulte was one of four monks maintaining the declining priory, which was dissolved in 2005.

For a time in the mid-1990s, Schulte, who is fluent in Spanish, worked with adults in a program to improve the lives of Minnesota’s migrant workers. The program was under the auspices of St. John’s School of Theology.

As the process of strengthening the program of risk assessment and supervision continued in 2003, Schulte took an extended canonical leave from the abbey to discern if he wanted to continue as a St. John’s monk with more rigid supervision. After living for a time with his ailing parents in North Carolina, Schulte returned of his own accord to Sant’ Anselmo Abbey in Rome.

When he learned of this move, Abbot John Klassen immediately informed the abbot primate of the allegations against Schulte, expressed his strong opposition to his presence there and emphasized the need for his prudent supervision. In 2006. Schulte moved to Subiaco Abbey. Again, Klassen notified Subiaco’s abbot of Schulte’s status and recommended supervision through CMSM guidelines.

When he learned that a lawsuit might be filed against Schulte and the abbey, Klassen asked Schulte to return and he did. Today he is living at the abbey under supervision.

Many of the decisions made in Schulte’s situation were deemed appropriate at the time, though they would not be considered acceptable today.

Aaron Raverty, OSB, is director of Abbey Communications at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville.

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Your turn: Abbey defends its oversight of Schulte
BY AARON RAVERTY, OSB
ST. JOHN’S ABBEY
JUNE 9, 2010

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Topics: Aaron Raverty, Bahamas, CMSM, Francisco Schulte, Opinion, Sant' Anselmo Monastery, Subiaco Abbey

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