Abbey, 'Brother' Named in Suit

By George Lane
Denver Post
January 30, 1997

A 30-year-old man has charged in a lawsuit filed in Denver District Court yesterday that a "brother" sexually and physically abused him while he was a youth residing at the old Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City 15 years ago.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Benedictine Society of the state of Colorado, Holy Cross Abbey, Catholic Diocese of Pueblo, Barnabus Stelzner and (John) Does 1 through 10.

Stelzner was a "teacher and spiritual adviser known as a brother," the lawsuit said. He was the brother who allegedly "sometimes" told the then 14- or 15-year-old youth that the sex acts he was being subjected to "were the will of God," according to the lawsuit.

"Stelzner's repeated sexual abuse of plaintiff occurred while Stelzner was responsible for supervision of the plaintiff," the lawsuit said. The man who filed the lawsuit now resides in San Francisco. Joyce Seelen, the local attorney who filed the action, couldn't be reached late yesterday. Efforts to contact Pueblo Bishop Arthur Tafoya also were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit accuses the employees of the abbey and the Benedictines of witnessing the illegal acts that were allegedly performed by Stelzner and other employees.

And, the lawsuit claims, there had been a policy in place for decades to deal with sexual abuse in secret and protect the offending brothers.

"Other male children were victims of sexual abuse by Brothers at the school both prior to and during the time plaintiff was abused," the action alleges.

"During the same period of time set forth, Stelzner and other employees of defendants developed and institutionalized a form of corporal punishment for the students at the school, whereby, among other things, students were required to take their clothes off in front of the student body and then be paddled on the backside."

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial on the charges and damages to be determined by the court.

The Holy Cross Abbey still exists, but no longer functions as a boarding school.


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