by Dennis Dalman
A list of 18 St. John’s Abbey priests or monks, living and deceased, has been released by the Abbey. All men on the list, which was released Dec. 9, are those who have been “credibly” accused of sexual misconduct.
The list’s release was in response to a lawsuit filed recently against a former monk who is accused of repeatedly molesting boys years ago. Part of the lawsuit called upon St. John’s Abbey to release a list of “credibly” accused monks and priests, past or present. The monk, Fr. Francis Hoefgen, is accused by a man known as “Doe 27” of sexually abusing him when he was a boy in the Hastings Catholic parish. In 1983, Hoefgen, who was serving in Cold Spring’s St. Boniface at that time, was accused of abusing a boy in that city. No legal proceedings followed that charge. Hoefgen is no longer a priest or monk and lives in Minneapolis.
The release of the list by St. John’s Abbey came just a week after the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis released a similar list containing 34 priests. The names of three former St. John’s Abbey priests were on that list: Hoefgen, Cosmas Dahlheimer and Brennan Maiers.
The names on the lists do not mean necessarily that those men sexually abused young people. Rather, the lists’ names are those of priests or monks who have been “credibly” accused of such illegal conduct. Some had been accused of watching pornography via the Internet or of having improper behavior with another adult.
St. John’s Abbey, again under pressure, years earlier released the names of priests and monks back in 2002 and again in 2011.
Brother Aelred Senna, a spokesman for the abbey, said the list is the best effort to identify those who “likely” made offenses against minors, even though some complaints could not be substantiated. He said placing their names on the list was a way for the Abbey to “acknowledge pain suffered by victims.”
In a similar development, a lawsuit filed Dec. 9 against a priest in Duluth is calling on that diocese to release the names of 17 priests accused of molesting minors. The lawsuit was filed by a man who claims he was sexually abused when he was a boy in that diocese in the 1970s.
A legislative change earlier this year removed the statute of limitations on sexual-abuse cases involving minors – thus, the spate of recent lawsuits by men who claim they’d been abused by clergy as long as 20 and 30 years ago.
Nine of the monks on the St. John’s Abbey list are living there under supervised plans that forbid them contact with minors. Seven of the men named on the list are deceased and two are no longer members of the clergy and no longer have anything to do with the abbey.
Jeff Anderson of Anderson and Associates, Twin Cities, is one of the world’s best-known attorneys who prosecutes cases of clergy abuse of children, including the case filed against Hoefgen.
“The release of this (abbey) list is a big step forward,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s never too late to do the right thing. We are glad St. John’s released the list so communities are safer. This disclosure helps us and the survivors come together because we all want the same thing – for kids to be protected and the truth to be known. This action is a step in that direction.”
Anderson and his clients have almost always included in their lawsuits a demand that lists of offenders be published.
The names of the “likely” and “credible” offenders on the St. John’s Abbey list are the following:
Those who are living: Michael Bik, Richard Eckroth, Thomas Gillespie, Francis Hoefgen (no longer a monk at the abbey), John Kelly (no longer a monk at the abbey), Maiers, Finian McDonald, Dunstan Moorse, James Phillips, Francisco Schulte and Allen Tarlton.
Those who are deceased: Andre Bennett, Robert Blumeyer, Dahlheimer, Othmar Hohmann, Dominic Keller, Pirmin Wendt and Bruce Wollmering.