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Suit Charges Monk with Sexual Abuse
Abbey in Canon City denies allegation, calls former student's claim 'false and malicious'

By Dick Foster
Rocky Mountain News
January 30, 1997

A Benedictine monk who taught at the Holy Cross Abbey boarding school in Canon City has been charged in a lawsuit with sexually molesting one of his former students 15 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court on Wednesday by attorneys representing Stephen Seewer, who now lives in San Francisco.

It brought an immediate and intense denial from the Abbey.

''The evidence not only does not support, but contradicts, the contentions of the plaintiff . . . that the Abbey School approved and condoned the use of physical and sexual abuse of its students,'' said Rev. Kenneth Hein.

''The Abbey is prepared to defend itself to the fullest extent possible against what it believes to be false and malicious allegations.''

The accused monk, Barnabus Stelzner, is still assigned to the Abbey but now works in Kansas.

The lawsuit also named as defendants the Abbey, the Benedictine Society of Colorado and the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo.

The Benedictines operated a boarding school for high school-aged boys at the Abbey until rising debts and declining enrollments forced its closure in 1985.

Seewer claims he was an Abbey student in 1982 and 1983, and during that time was ''sexually, physically and emotionally abused'' by Stelzner.

''In performing the sexual acts, which began in Denver, Colo., Stelzner sometimes told (Seewer) that the acts were the will of God,'' the lawsuit states.

Seewer claims in the suit that the repeated sexual abuse induced confusion about his sexual identity, and unconsciously suppressed his memory of the acts until last September.

The lawsuit contends that besides sexual abuse, students were made to undergo corporal punishment.

''Students were required to take their clothes off in front of the student body, expose their genitals and then be paddled on the backside with boards by the brothers and other employees,'' the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that the Pueblo Diocese was aware that sexual abuse of students at the abbey was an ongoing problem dating back to the 1970s, and that offending monks were reassigned to ''unsuspecting parishes.''

Bishop Arthur Tafoya of the Pueblo Diocese was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. Seewer could not be reached for comment.

 
 

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