by Dennis Dalman
When a sexual-abuse victim dubbed “Doe 2” made himself known publicly by his actual name, Troy Bramlage, that revelation allowed him to take back another piece of himself.
In a recent press conference, Bramlage, of Sauk Rapids, gave his emotional reaction to a settlement reached in a civil lawsuit filed by him against the alleged abuser, Fr. Allen Tarlton; as well as St. John’s Abbey, St. John’s Prep School and the Order of St. Benedict.
The monetary amount of the settlement was not disclosed at the press conference, which took place at the St. Paul office of Bramlage’s attorney, Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson and Associates. The press conference was live-streamed via Internet.
Anderson praised Bramlage for his courage in speaking up and in releasing his name.
Under terms of the legal settlement, St. John’s Abbey agreed to release files pertaining to 18 Catholic clerics (brothers, fathers, monks) who have been accused of sexual abuse against minors in the past. The settlement precluded a trial that was slated to begin May 4.
It’s just the latest of a series of files released by the Abbey under pressure of lawsuits filed in the past decade.
Talking at the press conference, Bramlage said he endured years of guilt and shame before deciding to step forward and take legal action on his claims he was repeatedly molested by teacher Tarlton in 1977 when Bramlage was a freshman at St. John’s Prep School.
“It’s difficult for people (abuse victims) to step forward,” Bramlage said. “The shame is amazingly difficult . . . A lot of people have not stepped forward yet . . . But the guilt and shame doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the people who did this to us, and it belongs to the people who hid this from us and from everybody else.”
Bramlage did not divulge his secret until four years ago. Since then, he has been able to start his healing process, he told the people who gathered at the press conference. “I got a piece of myself back,” Bramlage said, referring to his decision to make his name public.
At an earlier press conference, in 2013, Bramlage (then known as Doe 2), announced the lawsuit against Tarlton and St. John’s Abbey. Since then, he said, every legal step has helped him get a piece of himself back after his years of suffering with guilt and shame over something that was not his fault.
“I still have a lot to get through,” he said at the settlement announcement. “But people are behind me and helping to bring this forward.”
Bramlage ended his comment with advice for those who have been sexually abused by clergy or anyone else.
“There are lots of guys (out) there suffering and in shame,” he said. “Take your life back, take your power back from those people. Don’t let it stay in the dark. The way we win is to bring this into the light.”
Anderson said files on the accused clergy will be released in the “days, weeks and months to come.”
Bramlage’s lawsuit, Anderson said, proves yet again there was “a pattern and a practice” by top officials at St. John’s Abbey to protect known sexual-abusers and to hide the truth of what happened so often.
Anderson said Tarlton was – like many other offending clergy – not punished by top officials but rather transferred, made to seek treatment, transferred, given more treatment, released and transferred again and again.
The good news about the settlement, Anderson said, is the “Abbey has made a commitment to transparency, action and accountability. There is great hope and great promise for a safer tomorrow, and that is what Troy (Bramlage) has always wanted.”
In October 2013, Bramlage filed his lawsuit just a week after the Minnesota Legislature extended the statute of limitations in sex-abuse cases under the Child Protection Act. Anderson has long been recognized nationally as a leading attorney in cases involving sex abuse committed by clergy.
He and his clients have succeeded in forcing parishes to open their long-closed files regarding sex-abuse cases.
The files of the following 18 clergy will be released because of the legal settlement recently reached: Br. Andre Bennett, Fr. Michael Bik, Fr. Robert Blumeyer, Fr. Cosmas Dahlheimer, Fr. Richard Eckroth, Fr. Thomas Gillespie, Fr. Othmar Hohmann, Fr. Francis Hoefgen, Fr. Dominic Keller, Fr. John Kelly, Fr. Brennan Maiers, Fr. Finian McDonald, Fr. Dunstan Moorse, Br. Jim Phillips, Fr. Francisco Schulte, Fr. Pirmin Wendt, Fr. Bruce Wollmering and Fr. Angelo Zankl.