Sauk Rapids Man Files Suit Saying Priest Abused Him As Child

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
June 5, 2013

Attorney Jeff Anderson, right, holds a photo of Troy Bramlage taken when he was a student at St. John's Prep during a press conference Wednesday with Bramlage, center, and attorney Michael Bryant, left, in Waite Park.

[with video]

[Tarlton complaint]

[Abbey response]

Less than one week after a law went into effect that changes the landscape of childhood sex abuse lawsuits in Minnesota, a Sauk Rapids man filed suit against a St. John’s Abbey monk and the Order of St. Benedict.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Troy Bramlage is the direct result of the passage of the Child Victims Act, which lifted a six-year civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse. The new law gives victims older than 24 three years to sue for past abuse and anyone younger than 18 an unlimited time to file lawsuits regarding childhood sexual abuse.

Bramlage’s lawsuit names the Order of St. Benedict, St. John’s Abbey, St. John’s Prep School and the Rev. Allen Tarlton as defendants. It accuses Tarlton of abusing Bramlage in 1977 when Bramlage was 14.

Anderson, who along with Waite Park attorney Michael Bryant is representing Bramlage, said the new law means a likely end to a run of 17 years in which his lawsuits regarding decades-old clergy sex abuse claims have been dismissed from court because of the statute of limitations.

For Bramlage, a central motivation for his lawsuit is so others who were afraid to speak about the abuse they suffered when it happened or were unsure later if their case could be heard in court will know that there is an avenue for them now.

“I want to let kids to know that if they’ve been molested by priests, that they can come forward, and they need to get help,” Bramlage said. “And if one person, one kid, comes out and gets some help, then this will be worth it.”

Bramlage contends he was abused when he was 14 and attending the Prep School. It caused him in his adult years to have great swings in the stability of his life, he said, and still causes him to harbor guilt that not telling someone at the time caused others to be abused later by Tarlton.

Bramlage is at least the fifth person to sue Tarlton and accuse him of sexual abuse. The other lawsuits either were settled or were dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.

The abbey is researching and reviewing the allegations made against Tarlton, whom it said was “removed from all duties at St. John’s Prep School more than two decades ago,” according to an abbey statement. “(Tarlton) lives in a restricted environment, under close supervision and has no contact with the students of St. John’s Prep or St. John’s University.”

Bramlage said he began seeing a counselor after hearing Tarlton’s name in a local news report about a different lawsuit. He contacted Anderson, who filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Stearns County District Court.

Anderson accused Tarlton of grooming, molesting and raping Bramlage after the abbey knew for years that Tarlton was a risk of offending against children.

“There is abuse that is documented back to the ’70s, treatment back to the ’60s, problems earlier than that (with Tarlton),” Anderson said.

The abbey in April 2002 named Tarlton among more than a dozen abbey priests who faced restrictions on their movements and work activities because of allegations of sexual abuse. In court depositions for previous lawsuits, Tarlton has admitted he sexually abused students.

Anderson again plans to ask the abbey to release a “full and complete list” of known offenders. The last list provided in 2002 hasn’t been updated by the abbey, he said.

“We are concerned that it is incomplete,” Anderson said.

Bramlage was joined at a press conference Wednesday in Waite Park by Anderson and Bryant, who praised the passage of the Child Victims Act.

“That’s why this law is so very, very important, this law passing and giving the opportunity for Troy to come forward and be heard,” Bryant said. “Up until now, a case like Troy’s never got that opportunity.”

Anderson reiterated a claim he has made in previous lawsuits against Tarlton — that the abbey knew of his proclivities to offend against young boys as far back at the 1950s and repeatedly allowed him to have access to children, including teaching at St. John’s until 1990.

Tarlton was sent to psychiatric facilities several times for alcohol and sex offender treatment between 1960 and 1983, according to Anderson. He accused St. John’s of still fostering the culture that allowed Tarlton to continue having contact with children after knowing he was a danger.

“The culture that permitted Tarlton to exercise his predatory ways on this then-child and others remains intact,” Anderson said. “That is one of secrecy, that is one of self-protection, that is one that puts reputation over the welfare of children.”

St. John’s Abbey has made some changes that Anderson has praised and called groundbreaking. But it was clear Wednesday that he was skeptical about how much the abbey had genuinely changed on the issue of sex abuse involving its monks.

“...While they have made changes, it is our view that this community and that clerical culture still has work to do,” Anderson said. “And we’re willing to work with them to that end.”

The abbey’s statement also showed signs that relations between Anderson and the abbey have soured since a landmark settlement in 2002 led to the release of a list of known offenders and creation of a review board that initially saw half of its members picked by Anderson.

“In the past, we have worked in good faith with Mr. Anderson and other attorneys. We have been forthcoming and acknowledged the occasions when members of our community harmed others,” the abbey statement read. “The agreements we have made with Mr. Anderson, other attorneys and their clients have been faithfully fulfilled. Mr. Anderson is incorrect in suggesting otherwise. We hope that as this case moves forward, Mr. Anderson will be guided only by the best interests and eventual healing of his client.”


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