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  St. John's Review Board Member Resigns

By Frank Lee
St. Cloud Times (Minnesota)
August 19, 2006

COLLEGEVILLE Pat Marker felt he was prevented from helping those who needed help the most.

Marker resigned in protest Friday from an external review board formed as part of St. John's Abbey's response to a clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Last month, the abbey publicized allegations of sexual misconduct in the 1970s and 1980s that were made against three of its monks, one of whom has died. The accusations against the Revs. Michael Bik, Bruce Wollmering and Robert Blumeyer were made months to years before the abbey's July 28 announcement.

"The delays in disclosure, and more so the delays in notifying potential victims where these men worked, was part of the reason why I felt I must resign," Marker said.

The nine-member review board meets monthly and reports to the abbot on key issues ranging from assessment and supervision of offenders to assistance for victims.

Timing

Allegations against Bik were made in 1997. He was accused of misconduct with two teen-age boys in the 1970s, before he joined the abbey and before his ordination.

"It's taken far too long ... and my biggest worry is that since (the board) first found out about Bik, somebody's been hurt since," Marker said.

Bik worked at St. John's Preparatory School for five years after the 1997 accusation was made. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group for clergy molestation victims, has called that "reprehensible."

Marker, a 41-year-old Internet consultant from Mount Vernon, Wash., has flown to Minnesota for monthly meetings since he joined the review board three years ago. He is a St. John's clergy molestation victim himself.

"The fact that I've been accused of being part of the problem by a caller who asked me why it took so long to come clean makes me feel I need to step down," Marker said.

Marker is imploring Abbot John Klassen to send a personal letter to St. John's University and Preparatory School alumni about the allegations of sexual misconduct.

And Marker also wants letters sent to St. Stephen and St. Odilia parishioners in Anoka and in Shoreview, respectively, where Bik worked before he joined St. John's Abbey.

"The board, the abbot and the St. John's community need to do much more to notify potential victims and people who may have witnessed these crimes against vulnerable adults and children," Marker said.

The Rev. William Skudlarek, abbey spokesman, declined to comment on Marker's resignation because he said he was not aware of it until contacted by the St. Cloud Times. David Baraga, board chairman, could not be reached for comment.

Other allegations

Wollmering, 65, was accused in 2004 of sexual harassment by a former St. John's University student. The former student said the misconduct started in 1984.

Wollmering was chairman of the psychology department at St. John's at the time and may have counseled other students. He retired from the faculty in 2004.

After the July announcement, the abbey said the allegations about Wollmering were being made public because confidentiality rules surrounding counseling records bar direct contact with potential victims. Skudlarek also said after the announcement that if the abbot had known in 1997 what is known about sexual abuse now, the case would have been handled differently.

Bik, 57, and Wollmering live at the monastery but now work under restrictions. Neither could be reached for comment.

"While these monks get their lives together, the victims aren't afforded the same opportunity, because we are waiting to contact them," Marker said.

Accusations against the late Blumeyer were made in September.

They involve a teen-age boy he knew when he was an assistant pastor at a Wayzata parish in 1969.

"Their names should have been turned over to the public, if not the authorities, long ago, because there were plenty of warning signs," Marker said. "And there are warning signs now that things are still going on there with other monks."

Web site

Marker was one of the first victims to make public his story of sexual abuse at the hands of a St. John's Abbey priest. Marker attended St. John's Preparatory School in the 1980s.

He started the Abuse Disclosure Project, a Web site dedicated to clergy molestation victims and their stories.

He took the site down when he joined the external review board.

"Given the fact that I've been asked to participate in the withholding of information and not notifying victims, I don't feel comfortable being a part of that any more," he said.

Marker plans to develop a Web site "dedicated to the victims of abuse at St. John's" and has invited Klassen to provide feedback on it so that it may help abuse victims.

"The board sees it as a conflict of interest that I am providing public information about the accused and the history of sex abuse at St. John's while I'm on the board," he said.

"It is important to me that the abbey and the review board look at all allegations of misconduct not only against monks but also employees and volunteers because it's just not the clergy (who) have offended," Marker said.

"I think the abbot is doing a good job ... but I think he can do better. He must do better in order for that institution to survive."

How to report abuse or get help

Victims of sexual abuse related to the St. John's monastic community can receive free and confidential assistance from the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis by calling (612) 870-0565. For information, visit www.walkin.org.

Contact: fclee@stcloudtimes.com

 
 

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