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  Abuse at Crosier School Detailed;
At Least Six Members of the Catholic Order Were Accused of Sexually Abusing Boys at Its School in Onamia in the 1970s and '80s. an outside Investigation Is Underway.

By Chris Graves; Richard Meryhew
Star Tribune
June 16, 2002

Eleven members of a Roman Catholic religious order that is based in Shoreview are living under restrictions at mostly undisclosed locations because of sexual misconduct allegations.

The Star Tribune also has learned that six Crosiers were accused of sexually abusing minors in the 1970s and '80s at a prep school run by the order in Onamia, Minn. Four of them are among those on restrictions, and two are out of the order.

The new information indicates that sexual misconduct among the U.S. Crosiers ran deeper than the order had previously disclosed publicly.

One case involved allegations of sexual abuse by four Crosiers at the Onamia school, which closed in 1989. According to a confidential settlement signed in 1988, the victim was paid $150,000, which he says was meant to keep him from publicly discussing what happened and filing a lawsuit.

"Hush money is what it was," said Mark London, who said he is speaking out because he wants the Crosiers to be held accountable. "They knew they were in a corner."

While the leader of the U.S. Crosiers order, which has 87 members, has been more forthcoming in recent interviews about some of the allegations and admissions, he has declined to publicly identify most of the 11 men who are living under restrictions or to say where they are.

Some Catholic officials and counselors across the nation are pushing for more disclosure in such cases to restore the public's trust and to help ensure the safety of others living in the communities.

"As long as there are secrets, there will be sickness," said A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest who has written books on sex abuse in the Catholic Church. He said the Crosiers should name the priests who live with restrictions and disclose their whereabouts.

Walter Bera, a Minneapolis researcher, writer and therapist for victims of clergy sexual abuse, said the number of Crosiers living under restrictions suggests to him that the order "had developed a culture that condoned or ignored sexual exploitation of young people.

"While you may have 11 Crosiers [under restrictions], how many others were witnesses or aware of it and failed to intervene and protect the young?"

Earlier this month, the Crosiers hired the Twin Cities law firm of Faegre & Benson to investigate past and present allegations of sexual misconduct against its members. The firm will review all documents related to misconduct and the personnel files of any Crosier priest, brother, employee or volunteer named in a misconduct allegation, said the Rev. Thomas Carkhuff, head of the U.S. Crosiers since 1999.

"I am deeply saddened by the pain and suffering of all sexual abuse victims," said Carkhuff, who wasn't on staff at the prep school. "I offer them our deepest apologies."

Dave Kostik, a Crosier spokesman, said the order will "make a public report of some sort" on the firm's findings after the investigation.

'We are changing'

Carkhuff said the Crosiers are considering naming those under restrictions when the investigation is done.

"This is our way of communicating to people that we are taking this very seriously and we are changing and we are committed to change and that we want to be accountable, but we also want to be accurate," Carkhuff said.

The order, whose fathers and brothers work in parishes, schools and other places, would handle allegations differently today than it did in the past, he said.

The Crosiers are taking the investigation so seriously, Carkhuff said, that one priest who had been cleared of sexual misconduct at Onamia more than a decade ago nevertheless took a leave from his parish while the law firm investigates.

The priest, the Rev. Michael Van Sloun, addressed the issue in a recent letter to parishioners at the Church of St. Stephen in Anoka.

"I have never once in my entire life abused anyone, anywhere," he wrote. He explained his decision to take a leave by saying, "The internal investigations of years ago are no longer sufficient; they do not measure up to today's standards. Therefore, given the public nature of my position, it is high time to conduct an exhaustive, independent investigation to lay these concerns to rest once and for all."

Van Sloun is one of four Crosiers who had been investigated for possible misconduct, but cleared by the order. They are now under restrictions while being looked at again, a Crosier spokesman said Saturday. The other seven men under restrictions have admitted sexual misconduct in the past, that spokesman said.

The restrictions vary but can include requiring the Crosier to receive therapy, prohibiting him from doing public ministry or working with minors, or requiring him to be escorted in public.

Allegations emerge

Not far from Onamia, the priests and brothers at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville are facing similar troubles. The abbott has said that 13 monks are living under restrictions there, and that another is under limited restrictions because of new allegations.

Misconduct reports began surfacing in Minnesota more than a decade ago, leading to criminal charges and lawsuits across the state. Recent reports across the nation of coverups led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address the issue last week in Dallas.

Questions about what took place at the Onamia prep school and seminary in the 1970s and 1980s surfaced publicly last month.

During services at St. Odilia Catholic Church, Carkhuff told parishioners for the first time that a Crosier member was living under restrictions in Shoreview for past sexual misconduct. Brother Gregory Madigan had been living at the Crosiers' Shoreview community, which is next door to St. Odilia church and school, for 1 1/2 years. Those restrictions stemmed from a 1988 admission by Madigan that he abused a 14-year-old boy. Carkhuff has said that Madigan admitted to abusing other boys in the mid-1980s at the Onamia school.

Carkhuff said he had consulted other Crosier members, St. Odilia's priest and Catholic officials before Madigan was transferred from New York to Shoreview. It was a mistake not to discuss Madigan's move with the parish's lay leadership, Carkhuff said. Madigan has since been moved to an undisclosed location.

Carkhuff also recently removed the Rev. Neil Emon from public ministry at a parish in Arizona after receiving "new or more accurate information" involving the priest. Emon had already been living under restrictions at the Crosier community in Arizona after admitting he abused boys in Onamia in the early- to mid-1970s, Carkhuff said.

London, now 40, told the Star Tribune that neither Emon nor Madigan abused him.

But he said other Crosiers did.

The abuse, he said, began almost immediately after he enrolled at the prep school in 1977 and continued through his senior year.

In a lawsuit prepared but never filed because of the settlement, London alleged that three brothers and one priest groped, fondled and tried to have sex with him while he was a student. Another priest, he said, punched him shortly before his senior year.

Crosier members bought alcohol for him, he said, and sometimes drank with him when he was a minor, on and off the campus.

London said he initially reported the sexual abuse to his counselor, who dismissed it and called him a liar. London also spoke about it with several school officials and, later, Crosier leaders, he said.

He was known as Jeffrey Lenzen while a student, but he changed his name years later as he worked with a therapist to start a new life.

Carkhuff declined to discuss London's case but acknowledged that a signature on a copy of the confidential settlement provided to him by the Star Tribune was that of the head of the U.S. Crosiers in 1988. As part of the settlement, the order never admitted any wrongdoing.

The Crosiers have said that two of the members identified by London as his sexual abusers have left the order; the other two are living and working under restrictions at undisclosed locations outside the United States.

Dorm dean charged

A year before London's confidential settlement, a dorm dean for the sophomore class was convicted of sexually assaulting five boys, court records show. Harold M. Toole Jr., who was hired before the start of the 1986-87 school year and who lived in the dorm with the boys, wasn't a Crosier.

Within weeks of starting his job with the Crosiers, the former Louisiana police officer and paramedic fondled and engaged in sexual acts with several students, according to a criminal complaint. He also kept a loaded gun at the school and showed it to several students, the complaint said.

By early November, after school officials had notified Mille Lacs County authorities about Toole, he had already returned to Louisiana.

Carkhuff said school officials moved quickly on the case because the allegations surfaced almost immediately after the abuse.

The allegations against Crosier priests and brothers differed, he said, because the information surfaced years later. "That changes the whole complexity of it," he said. "That for me is a critical difference."

London, however, said he told his counselor and other school leaders of the abuse almost immediately.

Seeking a 'safe life'

London, the ninth of 11 children of a River Falls, Wis., couple, enrolled at the Crosier school when he was 15.

He and others considered the small-town setting to be an appealing place to learn, play sports and grow spiritually.

"I had this fantasy that it would be a safe life for me," London said during a series of recent interviews from his New York home. "I figured if I became a brother, I'd never be hurt again. I just wanted to live quietly and teach art."

Instead, he said, some of those he trusted at the school touched and fondled him; at least one walked around naked in front of him and crawled into bed with him; others called him a prostitute, teased him about his sexuality and attempted to have sex with him; and one punched him.

He never told police. And London said that returning to River Falls, where he had a troubled home life, would have been worse.

"I would not have survived," he said.

But, London said, while at the school he twice attempted suicide.

"I wanted to kill myself to keep them away from me," he said.

A psychologist, hired by the Crosiers in 1988 to evaluate London before the settlement was signed, said she believed London was abused at the school.

"I see him as a 'victim' of inappropriate sexual contact with members of the Crosier Order," wrote Susan Phipps-Yonas in her Sept. 20, 1988, report.

She suggested that London continue therapy, which he did, and participate in joint therapy with those who abused him.

London said that he asked for that in the settlement, but that the Crosiers didn't agree to it. Instead, he said, he was given the addresses of the Crosier members he said abused him so he could write to them.

As part of the settlement, the Crosiers adopted a sexual abuse and harassment policy in 1988. A year later, the school closed, mainly because of declining enrollment.

Trying to heal

London said that he never wanted the Crosiers who abused him to be criminally prosecuted. Nor did he want the money, he said.

All he has ever wanted, he said, is for the Crosiers to admit that they hurt him. He still hopes that someday his abusers will meet with him to talk about what happened.

He said he needs to have those conversations to completely heal.

"I gave them every opportunity to come forward and clean the slate," London said. "But all the time, the blame has been put on me. There's been no outreach for healing. . . .

"It's not about vindictiveness. . . . If you can't turn to your pastor, whether you're Catholic or Protestant or whatever, who do you turn to in your greatest joy and deepest pain?"

 
 

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