Lawsuit Accuses St. John's Abbey Priest of Sexually Abusing Hastings Boy
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
November 19, 2013
A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses a former St. John’s Abbey priest of sexually abusing a child at a Hastings parish where he was assigned after his superiors knew he had sexually abused a boy in Cold Spring.
The Rev. Francis “Fran” Hoefgen admitted in March 1984 that he had sexually abused a boy in the St. Boniface parish residence in Cold Spring. Hoefgen was sent to St. Luke Institute in Maryland for evaluation and treatment and never was charged with a crime in Stearns County.
After his stint in the Maryland institute, officials in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis then assigned Hoefgen to a parish in
Hastings, where he sexually abused another boy from 1989 to 1992, according to the lawsuit. The victim in the Hastings case was 10-13 at the time and is suing Hoefgen, St. John’s Abbey, St. Luke Institute and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Hoefgen’s superiors were aware of his record of abuse when they assigned him to Hastings, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who filed the lawsuit. But they did nothing to alert anyone in the Hastings congregation about it.
“There, he continued his ministry and he continued his predatory ways,” Anderson said of Hoefgen.
Anderson said he believed the abuse Hoefgen perpetrated on the Hastings boy is able to be prosecuted in criminal court. The victim has given a statement to Hastings police, he said.
Patrick Wall was the priest who replaced Hoefgen in Hastings. Wall was an abbey monk who later left the priesthood and now works for Anderson.
Wall said the monks in the abbey weren’t told about what Hoefgen had done or why he was being removed from Hastings. Wall and other monks weren’t told that Hoefgen had been to St. Luke either, Wall said.
Wall did hear about other victims of Hoefgen’s in Hastings, he said, but not through public conversations. “In the confessional,” Wall said when asked where he heard of additional victims.
“Fran is the lion. These guys are the lion tamers,” Wall said of Hoefgen’s superiors. “And they turned the lion loose on Hastings.”
Wall called on the victims from Hastings to call police, not the church, if they were abused.
“There are a lot more kids that were there, and you should not suffer in silence,” he said to those victims.
It’s the first time that St. Luke has been sued by Anderson, a prominent clergy sex abuse attorney. He is accusing the renowned treatment facility of failing to fulfill its duty of providing reasonable care to the victim with what it knew about Hoefgen.
Anderson said that St. Luke, a treatment center run by the bishops for clergy with substance abuse and other psychological problems, “recycled” known offenders by allowing them to get back into ministry, even sometimes recommending it to the religious orders from which the offending priest had come for treatment.
They should have been telling parishes what they knew about Hoefgen and other offending priests who went there for treatment, Anderson said.
The abuse that Hoefgen perpetrated on the Cold Spring boy was reported to police, who took statements from the victim and from Hoefgen, according to documents Anderson made available at the press conference. The case was sent to the Stearns County Attorney’s Office for a decision on whether to charge Hoefgen.
But within a few days, St. Luke had made a “strong recommendation” that Hoefgen come to Maryland for treatment. Hoefgen was sent there just three days after giving a statement to police in which he admitted sexually abusing the Cold Spring boy, Anderson’s documents say.
Wall pointed out the quickness with which church officials connected with St. Luke Institute after Hoefgen’s superiors learned about the abuse allegations. Within just a few days of him being interviewed by law enforcement, Hoefgen was flown to Maryland, where he would spend six months.
“They can move very quickly when they need to,” Wall said of the church superiors, whom he said were part of the “Catholic clandestine services.”
After his stay at St. Luke Institute, Hoefgen returned to St. John’s Abbey and then was assigned to Hastings in July 1985.
Hoefgen’s name was on a list publicized by the abbey in 2002 of its monks and priests with credible allegations of sexual misconduct against them. That list has been removed from the abbey’s website within the last few months
The lawsuit Anderson filed asked for the abbey to release the names of all credibly accused members and their last known address. He made the same demand of the archdiocese.
The lawsuit was filed after the Legislature earlier this year passed the Child Victims Act, which eliminated the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors. It has led to a flood of new lawsuits against religious orders, lawsuits that previously wouldn’t have been allowed to proceed in court.