Lawsuit accuses Crookston bishop of coercion, cover-up

By Andrew Hazzard
Grand Forks Herald
May 9, 2017

[with video]

ST. PAUL—A northwest Minnesota man has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Crookston and Bishop Michael Hoeppner, alleging a cover-up of abuse and coercion.

Ron Vasek, alongside his wife and attorney Jeff Anderson, announced his lawsuit at a press conference Tuesday where he made an emotional plea for victims to come forward and the truth to be revealed.

"He brought this suit because the truth of what has been done in the past and in the present needed to be revealed," Anderson said.

The lawsuit, filed in Polk County Monday, accuses Bishop Hoeppner of coercion and inflicting emotional distress. It levies one count of negligence, a count of negligent supervision, a count of negligent retention and two nuisance counts against the Diocese of Crookston.

In 1971, Vasek, who was raised in Tabor, Minn., claims he was sexually abused by Monsignor Roger Grundhaus while on a trip to Ohio when he was 16 years old. In 2010, his son the Rev. Craig Vasek, was ordained as priest in the Diocese of Crookston, and Ron Vasek tried to become a deacon. That's when he claims he revealed his abuse and was told by Hoeppner to stay quiet, which he believes is an act of blackmail.

Ron Vasek did not tell anyone about the abuse and remained in the church. When he began the process of becoming a deacon within the Diocese of Crookston, he told a priest he met with from outside the diocese about his abuse, Anderson said.

That priest reported Vasek's accusation of Grundhaus to his vicar general in the diocese, who contacted Hoeppner.

Not long after that conversation, Anderson said Vasek received a call from Bishop Hoeppner.

"What the bishop told him is 'Ron you must keep this quiet,' " Anderson said.

Anderson won a lawsuit against the diocese in 2014 requiring it to name any priest who had been credibly reported as an abuser. He said Grundhaus was not on that list.

In October 2015, Vasek said he was called to a meeting at Hoeppner's home. He thought it would be about his work to become a deacon. Instead, he said, he was blackmailed.

Vasek said the bishop told him there was an order being issued to not allow Grundhaus to serve in the diocese and handed him a letter in which his claims of abuse by Grundhaus in 1971 were recanted.

He initially refused to sign it.

"I was told 'If news of this scandal came out about Grundhaus, how could I ever ordain you? Where could I put you? Who would take you?' " an emotional Vasek said. "And then he said, 'It could be difficult for your son, who is a priest in our diocese.' I knew then I was being blackmailed."

He complied.

"I signed that letter to protect my son because I knew how evil a man the bishop could be if he wanted to be," Vasek said.


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