Justice still to come for victims of Crookston Diocese abuse after settlement

Forum News Service

July 27, 2019

By Tess Williams

The Diocese of Crookston reached a $5 million settlement this month with victims of clergy sexual abuse, but one victim said the real victory is still to come.

“I was never concerned about monetary gain in this lawsuit. My pursuit was for truth. I wanted the people to find out how many priests the public did not have information on who were credibly accused,” said Ronald Vasek, who filed a lawsuit against the diocese and Bishop Michael Hoeppner in 2017. “And that list is going to greatly increase now, through the efforts of these lawsuits.”

Attorney Elin Lindstrom, who represents victims as part of the Jeff Anderson and Associates team, said the settlement will include publicly releasing depositions and private documents from the diocese that likely will reveal more allegations.

“I think this is a really important step for these survivors to just get some accountability and acknowledgement for what happened,” she said. “These non-economic settlement parameters were something they were striving for and I think it’s a good day for us and a good day for some more transparency in the diocese.”

Most of the lawsuits were filed in response to the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a three-year period for victims to bring forward civil suits that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations in regard to child sexual abuse.

Vasek, whose lawsuit was part of the recent settlement, said he was abused as a boy by Monsignor Roger Grundhaus. Vasek said Hoeppner told him to keep the abuse secret and covered up the truth.

The lawsuits allege sexual abuse at the hands of Father James Bernauer, Father James Porter, Father Patrick Sullivan, Father Stanley Bourassa, Father James Vincent Fitzgerald and Grundhaus. All served in Crookston. The abuse reportedly spanned from 1969 until 2009.

Sullivan was placed on leave and then reinstated after allegations came to light. He has since been suspended in light of new accusations of “boundary issues,” according to the diocese. All five other accused priests are dead.

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