Abbey Issues Apology

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
June 9, 2010

St. John's Abbey on Tuesday issued an apology and said it regretted "shortcomings" in its statement last month about the work history and whereabouts of an abbey monk after the monk was accused of sexual abuse.

The apology was included in a letter to the editor submitted for publication in the St. Cloud Times. The letter also clarified the whereabouts of Fr. Francisco Schulte, who was named in a lawsuit last month alleging that the abbey, the Order of St. Benedict and St. John's Prep School covered up abuse by Schulte and others.

The May 18 statement was in response to the lawsuit and contained errors about where Schulte was after 1992, which is when the abbey said it first learned of allegations against Schulte. The abbey's own publications, including the Abbey Banner and Abbey Quarterly magazines, gave accounts of Schulte's whereabouts after 1992 that differed from the May 18 statement. The abbey removed the May statement from its website after a May 28 Times article detailed the inconsistencies between it and the abbey publications.

The abbey didn't immediately respond to a message left Tuesday seeking additional comment.

The letter the abbey submitted Tuesday to the Times said the Catholic Church's and St. John's Abbey's response to sexual abuse allegations has evolved during the past 30 years, that "mistakes were made in the context of today's norms" and that past abbots made good-faith decisions about accused monks.

"We regret and apologize for the shortcomings of the Abbey's May 18 statement, which neither reflected changes in the last 30 years nor presented adequately the complexities of Fr. Francisco Schulte's situation," the letter reads. "Moreover, although Fr. Schulte remained a member of Saint John's Abbey with restrictions on his ministry, our statement erred in stating that he was 'living at Saint John's Abbey' from 1992 through 2002."

A review of abbey publications shows Schulte in 1997 and 1998 was subprior of St. Augustine's Monastery in the Bahamas and that he studied in Rome in 1994 to complete his doctorate.

The abbey acknowledged those details in its letter and wrote that Schulte was supervised in the Bahamas by St. Augustine's prior, Fr. Daniel Ward, and that he was supervised in Rome by Abbot Jerome Theisen after Theisen became abbot primate and moved to Rome.

Schulte as recently as this spring was living at Subiaco Abbey in Rome. He returned to Collegeville when St. John's Abbot John Klassen learned a lawsuit was imminent and asked Schulte to return to St. John's. Schulte lives "under supervision" at the abbey, according to the letter.

Schulte took an extended canonical leave in 2003 in which he sought to discern whether he wanted to continue as a monk of St. John's Abbey. He lived with his ailing parents in North Carolina for a time before going to Rome to live at Sant' Anselmo Abbey.

"When he learned of this move, Abbot John Klassen immediately informed the current abbot primate of the allegations against Fr. Schulte, expressed his strong opposition to his presence there and emphasized the need for his prudent supervision," the abbey's letter to the Times read. "In 2006 Fr. Schulte moved to Subiaco Abbey. Again, Abbot John notified Subiaco's abbot of Fr. Schulte's status and recommended supervision ..."

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