Klassen Releases Statement about Sexual Abuse Claim against Former Abbot

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
June 10, 2011

Abbot John Klassen, in a statement released on the St. John’s Abbey website, said Thursday that allegations of sexual abuse against former Abbot Timothy Kelly came to his attention for the first time this week.

Klassen said in the statement that the abbey has begun an investigation into the allegations “with heavy hearts, but with an open mind and with a commitment to seeking and sharing the truth.”

Meanwhile, the attorney representing the man who has accused Kelly of abuse reiterated his contention that Klassen was informed about the allegations in December. Jeff Anderson issued a statement of his own late Thursday, in which he said again that former abbey monk A.W. Richard Sipe notified Klassen of the allegations through a letter in mid-December.

Anderson, Sipe and former abbey monk Patrick Wall appeared at a news conference Tuesday to detail the allegations made by a New York man who claims Kelly abused him when he was an altar boy at St. Anselm’s Church in the Bronx when Kelly was associate pastor there.

Klassen’s statement contends that the many conversations the abbey has had with Anderson in recent months never included any mention of allegations against Kelly. His statement makes no mention of any letter he might have received from Sipe, and Klassen was unavailable for any questions.

The abbey has settled claims from abuse victims in cases in which allegations are old enough to be dismissed in court because of the statute of limitations, and the statement from Klassen expresses regret that Anderson turned to the media rather than the abbey to discuss the allegations against Kelly.

“We deeply regret that despite working closely and cooperatively in recent months with Jeff Anderson, the attorney leading the case against Abbot Kelly, he still chose to first take his charges to the media,” Klassen’s statement read. “In all of our many conversations and meetings with Mr. Anderson in recent months, there never was a hint of any issue involving Abbot Kelly.”

Anderson, in his statement, said Sipe made the abbey aware of the Kelly allegations six months ago and that the abbey ignored Sipe’s letter.

“Contrary to Abbot Klassen’s accusations in his statement, we (filed the lawsuit) only because Saint John’s had already been made aware of the charges nearly six months ago and failed to investigate it, respond to it, or disclose it,” Anderson’s statement read.

Contacted Thursday at his home in California, Sipe said he sent the letter to Klassen in the U.S. mail in an envelope addressed directly to Klassen marked confidential. It was sent through the regular mail, had Sipe’s home address as a return address and wasn’t sent back to him, Sipe said.

At the Tuesday news conference, Sipe said there were others who have accused Kelly of abusing them at St. Anselm’s. Klassen’s statement said the abbey has contacted that parish to seek more information.

“Our solemn pledge in this and all of our investigations is to do all we can to contribute to the healing of those who have been harmed and also to restore the reputation of those who are falsely accused,” Klassen’s statement read.

Anderson’s statement took issue with the sincerity of the abbey’s investigative efforts.

What happened in this case “only leads to more questions about how many other times St. John’s got reports like those made by Richard Sipe and ignored them or chose to remain silent until a courageous survivor, like this one, comes forward with the help from our team,” it read.


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