Minnesota Transparency Initiative
Saint John's Abbey - Minnesota Transparency Initiative
January 19, 2016
Saint John's Abbey is voluntarily releasing the files of monks who credibly have been accused of sexual abuse of minors. These files include the personal letters, medical records, legal documents, and other papers that document every aspect of these monks’ lives. They are being released with the consent of the monks in the hope that their disclosure will help survivors.
Read an interview with Abbot John Klassen, OSB, on the importance of the files and their role in the abbey's decades-long journey to help the healing of survivors, to hold offending monks accountable and to prevent abuse. The interview is here.
The release of these files builds on a more-than-quarter-century-long record of transparency by the Abbey, including multiple times in which the names of those credibly accused have been made public. In no way do we minimize the actions of the monks or the harm caused survivors. We do believe, though, that a fair discussion of these issues must include some critical facts:
No incident of sexual abuse of a minor by a monk of Saint John’s has occurred in more than two decades. Saint John's is a safe and nurturing environment.
Since the allegations of abuse first came to light, Saint John’s Abbey has taken specific and effective actions to halt and prevent abuse, including these three:
o Saint John's Abbey has implemented a rigorous process to address and investigate allegations of abuse, retaining independent investigators to examine claims and make reports to an external board for review. In addition, Saint John’s has cooperated fully with investigations and processes of law enforcement.
o Many monks who offended are deceased. Those who have offended and still live at the Abbey are under safety plans that limit and supervise their actions.
o Saint John’s has enhanced the screening of men seeking to enter the monastery. Thorough assessments are part of a rigorous process of identifying appropriate candidates. Today, Saint John’s Abbey is a community of monks, including many young men, who live lives of service and leadership, creating a future for the monastery as bright as it ever has been.
Some of these files (Eckroth, Gillespie, Hoefgen, McDonald, Wollmering) were released to the media in November 2015. At that time, the selective highlighting of items in the files and, in some cases, factual errors created misunderstandings. Abbot John Klassen addressed the issues in an opinion article submitted to a Minnesota newspaper. Unfortunately, it was rejected for publication. We invite you to read the article here.
In preparing this disclosure, Saint John’s Abbey attempted to gather and include all of the documents contained in these 18 monks’ files. The files are as complete as current information permits. The documents span almost a century and include thousands of pages of material. By disclosing these documents to the public, it may be that additional documents are presented or discovered. If additional documents come forward, these files will be updated and supplemented.
Certain portions of these disclosed documents have been obscured (i.e, the names of victims and uninvolved persons, and social security numbers). These mark-ups, or redactions, were made out of concern for the rights and privacy of private persons, and to protect the rights and privacy of victims of sexual abuse. If you are concerned about any document which is disclosed here, please contact us.
Survivors of any form of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the Saint John’s monastic community or an employee of The Order of Saint Benedict, Inc., are invited and urged to come forward to begin a process of healing. Survivors may contact Abbot John Klassen at Saint John’s Abbey or an authorized Survivor Advocate.
The Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis, MN, which has been engaged by Saint John's Abbey to offer assistance to anyone who may have experienced abuse by a monk of the Abbey. Contact Mr. Gary Schoener or Dr. James Ayers, Ph.D., Clinic Director. Telephone (612) 870-0565 or 870-0574, James Ayers can also be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Victim Assistance Coordinator for the St. Cloud Diocese is Roxann Storms, MSW, LGSW, FT. Telephone (320) 248-1563.
Survivor Advocates are available nationwide and may be located by contacting area social service offices or, in most areas, diocesan officials.
Because survivors of abuse have a variety of options available to present allegations, Saint John's Abbey will not take action on anonymous or third-party reports of abuse.