Lawsuit Says Ex-Hastings Priest Abused Boy after Undergoing Sex-Offender Treatment

By Emily Gurnon
The Pioneer Press
November 19, 2013

The Rev. Francis Hoefgen

A former Hastings priest and St. John's Abbey are among defendants in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a Minnesota man who alleges the priest sexually abused him after "graduating" from a sex-offender treatment facility.

The plaintiff, now in his 30s, also sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the treatment center, St. Luke Institute of Silver Spring, Md.

Francis Hoefgen admitted to police in 1984 that he sexually abused a minor, then was assigned the next year to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church in Hastings after an evaluation at the institute, said the plaintiff's attorney, Jeff Anderson, of St. Paul, in a statement.

Hoefgen sexually abused the plaintiff, identified as John Doe 27, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton from about 1989 to 1992, the suit claimed. The boy was then 10 to 13 years old.

Lawsuits alleging abuse that occurred years ago are being filed in response to the Child Victims Act, a state law passed in May that opens a three-year window to victims to file civil suits previously barred by the statute of limitations.

Hoefgen, a member of St. John's Abbey, remained in ministry until 2002, serving in Cold Spring, Minn., as well as Hastings, Anderson said. He currently lives in Columbia Heights. The archdiocese said he was defrocked in 2011.

A man who answered the phone at Hoefgen's residence said, "He's not in today" when contacted by a reporter. The man said he did not have other phone numbers for him.

Hoefgen worked at Washburn-McReavy funeral homes in Minneapolis, Bill McReavy said Tuesday, but "is not an employee" of the company currently. He declined to say when Hoefgen left, citing confidentiality.

Public records list Hoefgen at the same Columbia Heights townhouse address as the Rev. David Ostrowski, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Minnetonka.

Ostrowski addressed his congregation Nov. 9 regarding a sexual abuse lawsuit against a former Immaculate Heart priest, the Rev. Jerome Kern, saying, "We have to rid our church of these mentally ill men and we also have to hold those who covered it up very much accountable."

The Hoefgen lawsuit, filed in Dakota County District Court, alleges that the defendants were negligent in allowing Hoefgen, now 63, to continue to work around children after he admitted abusing a minor.

Anderson filed suit in 1992 on behalf of that Cold Spring-area victim. It was settled before trial. He was never criminally charged.

The archdiocese removed Hoefgen from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton "immediately" upon hearing of the 1992 suit, said Patrick Wall, a former monk who was assigned to take Hoefgen's place at the parish.

Hoefgen worked for the next 10 years at Villa Maria retreat center in Frontenac, Minn., and was guest master at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville.

Anderson called on the archdiocese to release its list of 33 priests it deemed "credibly accused" of child sexual abuse, and asked the abbey to repost on its website a list of 17 accused monks. St. John's had listed the names in 2011, but later removed the posting, Anderson said.

In a written statement, St. John's spokeswoman Aelred Senna said, "We are saddened to learn today of allegations of misconduct by a former member of our monastic community who left Saint John's in 2011." The abbey had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and could not comment on the details, she said.

James Accurso, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Hoefgen's "faculties were restricted by the abbey" in 1992, and he was no longer allowed to serve in public ministry.

Archbishop John Nienstedt said Nov. 11 that he would release this month "the names, locations and status of priests who are currently living in the archdiocese, and who we know have substantiated claims against them of committing sexual abuse against minors."

Anderson's office and victims' advocates said they doubt the list will include all of the 33 priests that the archdiocese said in 2004 were "credibly accused."

Senna, the St. John's spokeswoman, said that the abbey "has identified names (of accused monks) per the terms of our previous agreements with victims of abuse. We continue to fully comply with those agreements."

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Saint Luke Institute, said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and did not know the specifics.

Anderson said that to his knowledge, Tuesday's suit was the first ever to name the treatment center as a defendant in a clergy sex-abuse case.

Gibbs said she knew of no other lawsuits.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.



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