Family Calls St. John's Abuse Report Lacking
Sisters of a Student Who Killed Himself Say St. John's Hasn't Disclosed All It Knew about Past Sex-Abuse Cases

By Pamela Miller
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
September 25, 2006

The sisters of a California man who committed suicide in 1971 after allegedly being raped by a visiting professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., delivered a letter to St. John's Abbey on Monday saying that their brother's case contradicts the institution's claim that it releases the names of all sex offenders.

Rita Prince of Pahrump, Nev., and Teri Ryan of Bremerton, Wash., who were accompanied by three Minnesota advocates for clergy sex-abuse victims, said their brother, Patrick Ryan, 19, hanged himself after dropping out of St. John's in 1970. He told his family that he had been drugged and raped by the Rev. Paul GoPaul, a Trinidad native who taught at St. John's in 1969-70 and died in 1988.

The sisters say their father wrote St. John's a letter explaining why Patrick had dropped out in 1971 and received a reply saying that GoPaul would be denied tenure.

"My family was destroyed by my brother's suicide," Prince said. "My mother died at 57 and my father had to live with knowing that he'd urged his son to go to his alma mater, a move that led to his death. We stopped being Catholics, but not Christians, after he died."

On Monday, abbey spokesman the Rev. William Skudlarek, who met with the sisters at the abbey, said, "It's the first I'd heard" of an exchange between Ryan's father and the abbey. He said files were being searched for more information. Skudlarek said current abbey officials first heard of the case in 2002, when a victim's advocate contacted by the Ryan family forwarded GoPaul's name to the abbey.

Abbot John Klassen, who at that time was settling a host of complaints about monks at the Benedictine abbey, offered the family counseling and forwarded the complaint to GoPaul's order, the Society of St. Edmund in Colchester, Vt., Skudlarek said.

"If this were happening today, [Klassen] would be inclined to release the name, but in 2002 he thought it made more sense to focus on the complaints about our Benedictines and send the information about GoPaul to his own community," Skudlarek said. "There was no intent to hide his name or any names of perpetrators."

Prince said that's "passing the buck."My brother was taught at St. John's by this man," she said. "We think it was St. John's responsibility to release the name."

The group also delivered a letter to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bob Schwiderski, head of the Minnesota Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said activists believe the archdiocese could be more proactive in urging accountability from all Catholic bodies and using its resources to reach out to victims.

In response, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general, said the archdiocese has been vigorous in addressing cases in its jurisdiction and is "hiding nothing and protecting no one."

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.