Bishop Cozzens offers clarity regarding statuses of Msgr. Grundhaus and Bishop Hoeppner

Diocese of Crookston MN

March 7, 2022

By Janelle C. Gergen

In a Mar. 7 letter to diocesan faithful, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens offered clarity regarding the statuses of Msgr. Roger Grundhaus and Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner. According to the letter, Msgr. Grundhaus does not have faculties for public ministry in the Diocese of Crookston. The declaration is in effect for one year and will be reviewed at that time to determine if it should continue.

The letter explains that in August, Bishop Richard E. Pates, while serving as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Crookston, announced that Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, had determined that the status of Msgr. Grundhaus would remain as it had been since May of 2017 — that he was not permitted to engage in public ministry.

Archbishop Hebda had been delegated to determine the case by the Holy See. At the time, the Diocese of Crookston’s Ministerial Review Board (MRB) was under the direction of Judge Timothy O’Malley, Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Hebda consulted the MRB and concurred with their recommendation that Msgr. Grundhaus should not be considered suitable to return to public ministry.

The letter goes on to say that the MRB found insufficient evidence to form a basis that Msgr. Grundhaus engaged in behavior that constituted a grave delict under canon law or a crime under civil law. However, they concluded that Msgr. Grundhaus engaged in inappropriate activity that showed poor judgment and some level of impropriety with a young man.

Judge O’Malley, having reviewed the case extensively concluded that Msgr. Grundhaus acted highly inappropriately, caused lasting harm to individuals and scandal in the diocese. 

“Based on my own review of the entire affair, I agree with this assessment,” said Bishop Cozzens. “The circumstances surrounding the situation involving Msgr. Grundhaus do not fit our definition of a credible claim of sexual abuse against a minor so his name will not appear on the list of disclosures found on our diocesan website,” he added.

Regarding Bishop Hoeppner, Bishop Cozzens clarified two things. First, when Bishop Hoeppner was departing the Diocese of Crookston in April, he had publicly stated he hoped to return to the diocese at the invitation of the new bishop. “I have spoken with him, and he has agreed to not return to do any ministry in the Diocese of Crookston,” said Bishop Cozzens. 

He added that the diocese has been asked about the financial arrangement for Bishop Hoeppner in his retirement. 

“Last November, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published renewed ‘Guidelines for the Provision of Sustenance for Bishops Emeriti.’ For the first time, it contains a section with special guidelines for bishops who resigned or were removed from their ecclesiastical office due to grave acts of commission or omission as stipulated in universal law,” said Bishop Cozzens. “This section has reduced benefits recognizing the fact that the bishop emeritus will not be doing any public ministry. The Diocese of Crookston Finance Council has approved using these guidelines for Bishop Hoeppner’s retirement benefits.”

Bishop Cozzens explained a recurring theme from the clergy and faithful in his first few months as bishop has been the need to restore trust in diocesan leadership. 

“This has come up quite clearly in the first three Synod Prayer and Listening Events, and I expect it to come up in the others,” he said. “I know from my previous experience in ministry how important it is to act on principles which can help to restore this trust — principles like listening to victim/survivors of abuse and putting their needs first, involving qualified laity to help make decisions, and being transparent about decisions and the reasons for them.”