St. Cloud Diocese Reveals Names of Priests Accused of Abusing Children.
By Jean Hopfensperger
January 3, 2014
The St. Cloud Diocese on Friday released the names of 33 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children, bringing to nearly 100 the total names of such priests revealed in the past month in Minnesota.
“It is my hope that the release of these names will provide validation to those victims who have been sexually abused and have already come forward,” St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“I pray it will also give strength to those who have remained silent and allow them to come forward,” he wrote.
The release of the list came one day after attorneys filed a lawsuit in Stearns County District Court on behalf of Robert Ethen of Sartell. The lawsuit says Ethen, then a child, was abused in the mid-1960s by the Rev. James A. Thoennes while attending St. Anthony’s parish in St. Cloud.
Thoennes has been the subject of previous allegations of child sexual misconduct, yet the diocese moved him to another church, said Mike Finnegan, an attorney for Anderson & Associates of St. Paul, which filed the lawsuit along with attorney Mike Bryant.
The list includes both diocesan priests and members of St. John’s Abbey of Collegeville, which released its own list of 18 priests charged with sexual misconduct last month. There is some overlap with the St. John’s list and with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis list released last month.
Twenty of those named in the St. Cloud list are dead. The whereabouts of five are listed as “unknown.” Three currently live in Collegeville: the Rev. Richard Eckroth, the Rev. Thomas Gillespie and the Rev. Brennan Maiers. One priest, Thoennes, lives in St. Cloud. One, transitional deacon Michael Weber, lives in the Twin Cities.
The priests served in St. Cloud as well as in smaller towns across central Minnesota, from Little Falls to Belle Prairie.
‘There’s more to this list’
Victims’ advocates immediately questioned whether the list was complete, pointing out that it contains the name of only one member of the Crosier religious order, which ran a prep school in the town of Onamia in the diocese. In 2002, the Crosiers publicly identified eight members who have sexually abused minors, according to news reports.
“There’s more to this list,” said Bob Schwiderski, Minnesota director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
The St. Cloud Diocese is the fourth diocese in the past month to make public such a list. Like the others, it has the names of priests credibly accused of abuse between 1950 and 2004. It was compiled by the diocese for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Finnegan called the release of the list a good “first step forward.”
“With the number of offenders, and the number of parishes they served at, I think there are dozens of survivors out there,” he said. “I’m hopeful that the release of this list will give them permission to break the silence.”
Kettler, who became bishop of the St. Cloud diocese in November, urged any victims to contact the diocese. “I am struck by the courage and strength of the victims of abuse who have come forward,” he wrote.