Abuse Allegations Shake St. John's Abbey

By Matt Smith
The Record [Minnesota]
September 7, 2006

Pat Marker kept it all inside for nearly 10 years.

He moved to St. John's Prep School before his junior year of high school. Marker, now 41-years-old, says what Fr. Dunstan Moorse did to him in his late teens changed the course of his life forever.

Until late this August, Marker was a member of the St. John's Abbey external review board, a group of nine professionals who assess alleged monk offenders and provide help to victims. Marker was selected because he's a survivor of sexual abuse.

But in August, he resigned from his position following new allegations of sexual misconduct from three monks of the St. John's monastic community.

New allegations

On July 28, Abbot John Klassen made public the names of three more monks who he said, substantial facts shows committed sexual misconduct.

"There was enough evidence to convince us it happened," Klassen said. "I delayed this one probably longer than I should have, but nevertheless, made it public."

Frs. Michael Bik and the late Robert Blumeyer, the Abbot said, face several allegations of sexual abuse. Two allegations of sexual harassment against Fr. Bruce Wollmering were also brought to light in 2004.

The statute of limitations is expired on each allegation, Klassen said, making it impossible to prosecute.

Klassen says that brings the total number of monk offenders at St. John's to 10, out of the 150, currently residing at the Abbey.

Klassen said two victims just came forward in the fall of 2005 accusing Blumeyer, who died in 1983, of sexual abuse between 1969 and 1979.

But the Abbot says he's known about the allegations against Bik since 1998, and let him continue teaching at the prep school until 2002.

"At that point [in 1998], the culture within our leadership would be to say as long as we put Michael in a situation where he is not in a residential hall, or not counseling, it should be OK," Klassen said. "It was my call in the summer of 2002 to make his name public or not In fact, I would say this was an error on my part."

The delay prompted Marker's resignation.

"They are going to either under report or minimize every chance they have," Marker said. "And that's exactly what's happening."

Marker's story

Although Marker has considered himself a survivor since the early 1990s, he's confident that many victims from St. John's are holding on to the secret like he once did.

"I'm very concerned about the people who went to the prep school for one or two years and dropped out, or to the college for one or two years and dropped out," he said.

Marker says he formed a relationship with Moorse when he moved to St. John's after being severely homesick. The trust that was formed, he said, was violated.

"At one point we were down in the dorms of the prep school and he tried to masturbate me, and wasn't successful, and got frustrated," Marker said. "There was sexual contact."

Marker says it took years for him to understand the drastic impact.

"I was very frustrated with the church, and very frustrated with my peers and not really understanding where that came from," he said.

But in early 1990, that changed.

"I called him up on the telephone and I said, 'Listen, I know what you did to me. I understand what you did to me now And I need some counseling,'" Marker said. "And he said he couldn't help me."

Marker accuses Moorse of attempting to silence him when he feared his removal from the Abbey.

"When I was going through the low point of my life he took advantage of that," Marker said.

The abuse, he said, has shaped his life, making him a leading advocate for sexual abuse victims from St. John's.

Victim's support

Klassen said the external review board began meeting three years ago and is confident the Abbey is making strides in its work.

"What I can assure you is this is a very important and sensitive area and we are looking at this very carefully and want to err on the side of accountability," Klassen said.

The Abbey has formed a partnership with the Walk-In Counseling Center in Minneapolis, where victims are urged to go for help.

"Our job is to be a safe place to talk and to get the ball rolling," said Gary Schoener, executive director and contact for Abbey abuse victims.

Klassen said the Abbey asked the center for the partnership to provide professional help for victims.

"[The victims] have never been a distraction to us," Klassen said. "They are real human beings who have suffered enormously."

Although a settlement was reached between Marker and the monastery, Marker said that wasn't the case with him.

"They've been working under a cloak of secrecy for so long and they continue to," he said. "That's the attitude and personality of the Abbey."

Marker said his extensive research shows more monks will be named and more victims will come forward. That's prompted him to create a Web site, which he says, will shed light to the on-going abuse.

But that accusation, and the Web site, Klassen said, is "a whole lot of innuendo."

"That is totally an unfounded, false statement. I mean false," Klassen said. "Our students can be confident that we are doing our level best with the help of skilled professionals to make sure that your education and time here is safe, and that it is an opportunity for an outstanding educational experience."


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