Former Hastings priest charged with raping altar boy

By Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
May 21, 2014

Andre Bennett

Here are some of the photos of those priests and monks listed as suspected of sexually abusing children.

Michael Bik

A former Hastings priest has been charged with sexually abusing a young altar boy at his church over a period of more than two years.

Francis "Fran" Frederick Hoefgen, 63, of Columbia Heights subjected the boy to oral and anal sex as well as fondling of his genitals, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Dakota County District Court. The child was between the ages of about 9 and 12.

The alleged victim, now an adult, went to Hastings police with the allegations in November.

County Attorney James Backstrom said most child sexual abuse victims never report the crimes, and the ones who do often wait for years.

"Why does this happen? It's not that hard to understand if you think about it," Backstrom said. "These are frightened kids who do not even fully understand what is happening to them."

And the vast majority are preyed upon by people they know and trust, Backstrom said.

He encouraged other victims of sexual abuse to come forward, even if the crime happened long ago.

"Please know that there are many persons in our criminal and civil justice systems who care deeply about you and want to do everything we can to help you and bring justice to the person responsible for causing you so much pain for so many years," he said.

According to the criminal complaint:

The alleged victim said he attended St. Boniface Church and school as a child. While serving as an altar boy, he was sexually abused by Hoefgen "on several occasions over an extended period of time," the complaint said.

The abuse took place between 1989 and 1991. Depending on the circumstances, suspects in child sexual abuse cases may be charged long after the alleged crimes occurred, Backstrom said.

Hoefgen worked in Hastings from 1985 until 1992. He began at St. Boniface; that church merged in 1987 with Guardian Angels to form St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. Hoefgen left in 1992.

He was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Hoefgen turned himself in at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday and was booked into the Dakota County Jail shortly before 7 a.m., according to jail records and Backstrom. At his first court appearance Wednesday morning, his bail was set at $150,000 without conditions and $25,000 with conditions, which include no contact with minors or the alleged victim in the case.

The former priest posted $25,000 bail Wednesday, said Monica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the county attorney's office. He is due back in court Aug. 11.

His attorney, Michael Colich, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Hoefgen also has been the subject of two lawsuits by alleged victims.

Hoefgen admitted to having oral sex with a teenage boy in June 1983 after moving the suicidal teen into the church rectory with him in Cold Spring, Minn.

He told the Cold Spring police chief and Stearns County sheriff's deputy that the boy "had no other place to go" and had been in the psychiatric wing of a hospital for "family problems," according to a signed statement dated March 19, 1984.

The abuse took place in the living room of the rectory, Hoefgen told investigators.

But Hoefgen was sent by St. John's Abbey to the St. Luke Institute, a church-sponsored treatment center in Maryland for priests accused of sexual abuse, "before a real investigation could start," said Jeffrey Anderson, attorney for the alleged Hastings victim who sued Hoefgen in November. Hoefgen remained there for six months.

Charges never were filed in the Cold Spring case.

Also named in the lawsuit by plaintiff John Doe 27 were St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and St. Luke Institute.

The archdiocese installed Hoefgen at St. Boniface after he returned from St. Luke's. Officials did not tell parishioners at St. Boniface of Hoefgen's past abuse, thereby putting other potential victims at risk, the lawsuit alleged.

Hoefgen was removed from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton when the alleged victim in the Cold Spring case filed suit in 1992.

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

Abbey spokesman Aelred Senna said in a written statement Wednesday that it had not seen the details of the criminal charges against Hoefgen. The abbey had included him on a publicly disclosed list of monks and former monks likely to have sexually abused minors, he said.

Hoefgen was both a Benedictine monk and a priest. He was defrocked and left the Benedictine order in 2012.

Hoefgen had been working at Washburn-McReavy funeral homes in Minneapolis, but when the lawsuit was filed in November, Bill McReavy said Hoefgen was no longer an employee. He declined to say when Hoefgen left, citing confidentiality.

According to public records, Hoefgen lives at a townhome owned by the Rev. David Ostrowski, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Minnetonka. Ostrowski did not immediately return a call late Wednesday afternoon.



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