Accused of Sexual Abuse: the Monks Living Next Door

By Esme Murphy
April 29, 2011

[with video]

Earlier this month, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville mailed letters to thousands of St. John’s Prep School alumni saying over a period of more than 40 years, 17 monks had “credible allegations of sexual abuse brought against them.”

Four of the monks have died, 10 remain at the Abbey with restrictions imposed on their activities.

But three of the monks accused of sexually abusing children and young adults live here in the Twin Cities.

The outward serenity of St. John’s University and the adjoining St. John’s prep college has harbored scandal.

“The subculture of secrecy and sexuality has run so deep and so long that it may be among the worse that I have ever encountered,” Attorney Jeff Anderson said.

Anderson’s lawsuits forced the Abbey into releasing the names of the accused monks.

Brother John Kelly was seen at his St. Michael home, just down the street from an elementary school.

Esme Murphy: “The college has put out a list, has put your name on a list, saying there are credible allegations of sexual abuse against you. What do you have to say about that?”

Brother Kelly: “I have nothing.”

Murphy: “Is it true?”

Kelly: “I have nothing to say.”

Murphy: “Did you abuse young boys there?”

Kelly: “I have nothing to say … Well, I guess maybe you don’t understand the Christian religion.”

Murphy: “I do understand the Christian religion and it’s about forgiveness. Do you feel you deserve forgiveness?”

Kelly: “I appreciate your program and everything you do, but I just can’t say anything.”

Later, Anderson watched the interview with Brother Kelly.

“When I watched that, it made me feel a little sick and actually pretty scared,” he said. “Scared because he is in the community.”

Kelly is still a monk, but is on leave from the Abbey.

Another monk named in the letter, who is also on leave from the Abbey, is Fran Hoefgen. He lives in a townhouse in Columbia Heights.

Hoefgen ran from WCCO-TV cameras, as they tried to interview him outside his job at the Washburn-McReavey funeral chapel.

“Fran Hoefgen is really disturbing,” Anderson said. “He molested several youth while in parishes while being assigned out of the Abbey.”

Half a block from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, WCCO-TV caught up with Stephen Lilly.

Murphy: “Your name was on that list.”

Lilly: “It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

Lilly left the Abbey in the 1990s after being accused in a lawsuit of molesting a St. John’s University student. The Abbey said Hoefgen and Kelly must decide soon whether they will return to St. John’s and the monastic life.

St. John’s released this statement today:

“St. John’s University is committed to educational excellence and an experience that is safe and respectful for all students. The Abbey’s safety plans are designed to provide a safe environment for all who live, study and work at St. John’s. Monks on safety plans are barred from student residences and other campus spaces that could lead to contact with students in non-public areas.”


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