Man Sues Crosiers Religious Order, Alleging Sexual Abuse 20+ Years Ago
Plaintiff's Lawyer Says the Suit Is Aimed at Forcing the Order to Publicly Identify Members Accused of Abuse

By Herón Márquez Estrada
Star Tribune [Minnesota]
April 17, 2006

A former Minnesotan filed suit Monday against a Roman Catholic religious order and a former member who he says sexually molested him more than 20 years ago.

Robert Skjonsby, 40, of Port Orchard, Wash., said that it was only last year that he was able to admit to himself and his wife that he was abused from 1980 to 1983 while he was a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church in Wahkon, Minn. The abuse occurred, he said, in a cabin in the Mille Lacs area and at a housing facility in the Twin Cities.

"For 25 years I've kept it inside," he said. "I never admitted that I was sexually abused. I never wanted to admit that I was sexually abused. ... It's caused me a lot of pain."

Named as defendants were the Crosier religious order and Wendell Mohs, a former brother and recruiter for the Crosiers.

Skjonsby singled out Mohs as the man who he said abused him several times. A call to Mohs' home in Rice, Minn., seeking comment Monday was not returned.

Skjonsby's attorney, Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, said the suit is an attempt to get the Crosiers to release the names of priests and brothers who have abused children in the past.

The Crosiers order, which has about 80 members in the United States, was founded in Minnesota in the 1920s. It is based in Shoreview and operates communities in Phoenix and Onamia, Minn.

In 2002, the Crosiers revealed that 11 of its members were living under restrictions because of sexual misconduct allegations. Their identities were never released.

"It's time for them to come clean," Anderson said Monday during a news conference announcing the suit. "The Crosiers have known for years that they had a serious problem."

Dave Kostik, a Crosier spokesman, said Mohs left the order years ago, but Kostik didn't know when or how long he had belonged to the Crosiers.

"We've received the lawsuit and we've begun to investigate," Kostik said. "We take reports of sexual misconduct very seriously."

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory damages. But Skjonsby, a U.S. Navy veteran, said he did not file it for money. All he wants, he said, is for the Crosiers to release the names of members identified as child abusers.

"We're just looking for information," he said. "I just want the Crosiers to tell us who might have abused children. I'm here today to protect children who may be as vulnerable as I was."

Heron Marquez Estrada • 651-298-1554


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