Ron Vasek says his efforts to become a deacon, the Roman Catholic Church's highest lay position, were thwarted by the diocese after he told them he was abused by in 1971 by the Rev. Roger Grundhaus when he was 16 years old and on a mission trip in Ohio and that Bishop Hoeppner asked him to sign a letter retracting his claims in 2015.
Vasek, whose son Rev. Craig Vasek is a priest in the Diocese of Crookston, signed the letter under circumstances he described as blackmail.
A suit filed on Vasek's behalf in May by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who specializes as an advocate for victims of abuse within the Catholic Church, is the first case in which a bishop has been sued for coercion, according to Anderson.
Anderson also said Grundhaus was not named in a 2014 court-mandated release by the diocese of all priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse in the past. Vasek said he told Hoeppner about Grundhaus in 2011.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 20 in front of Judge Kurt Maben in Pennington County. Maben is the fourth judge assigned to the case since it was filed May 8.
Judge Anne Rasmusson was first assigned the case and immediately recused herself May 10, according to court filings. The case was reassigned to Judge Jeffery Remick, who recused himself on May 11.
The suit moved into the court of Judge Tamara Lynn Yon, who accepted the case, but Anderson requested she recuse herself because a law firm she previously worked for had defended the Diocese of Crookston in a prior case. In a response, Yon wrote she left the firm in April 2006 to take the bench and did not work on the diocese case. After Anderson filed a formal motion to recuse, the case was reassigned to Maben.
In a response motion to the suit Bassford Remele, a Minneapolis firm representing the diocese, argues that five of the seven counts against the diocese should be dismissed on grounds that the actions took place outside of the court's jurisdiction and the accusations do not constitute a claim for relief that can be granted.
No motions have been made regarding counts accusing Hoeppner of coercion or inflicting emotional distress.