Lawsuit: St. John's priest admitted abuse, returned to ministry - KMSP-TV

Lawsuit: St. John's priest admitted abuse, returned to ministry

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

A Minnesota man filed a lawsuit Tuesday against St. John's Abbey, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the St. Luke Institute, alleging they should have known the priest who abused him was a sexual predator.

The lawsuit claims Rev. Fran Hoefgen sexually abused the victim between 1989 and 1993, when he was 10 to 13 years old. The alleged abuse occurred during Rev. Hoefgen's tenure at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, Minn.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants should have known Hoefgen was a danger to children because he sexually abused another boy at the St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring, Minn. in 1983.

Hoefgen confessed to the St. Boniface abuse in a signed statement to police, but was not prosecuted and never served jail time because he was immediately flown to a Catholic treatment center in Maryland called the St. Luke Institute.

'THEY TURNED HIM LOOSE'

After six months of treatment, he returned to St. John's Abbey, but attorney Jeff Anderson said that's not where he stayed.

"With the permission of these two superiors, they allowed this known and admitted offender to go to Hastings," Anderson said.

Those two superiors were Abbot Jerome Thiessen of St. John's and St. Paul Archbishop John Roach, whom the lawsuit says knew of Hoefgen's sex crime and assigned him to St. Boniface Parish in Hastings.

They told no one, not even the priest who would eventually replace him in 1992.

"I went to Hastings to follow Fran," said former priest and current clergy abuse advocate Patrick Wall. "The only thing I knew is that there was a lawsuit filed. I didn't know there was an admission. I didn't know how many kids there were. The pastor never knew. We didn't even know he had been to St. Luke's...so basically what we're saying is Fran is the lion, these guys were the lion tamers and they turned him loose on Hastings."

Anderson said his firm knows of four alleged victims of Hoefgen, but asks any others to contact police.

The lawsuit seeks the reposting of 17 known offenders to the St. John's website and a release of the 33 names from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

ARCHDIOCESE STATEMENT

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released the following statement Tuesday:

We are investigating the claims in today's lawsuit which involves Francis Hoefgen, a former priest of St. John's Abbey who served in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in the mid-1980's. In 1992, Hoefegen's faculties were restricted by the abbey, and he was no longer allowed to serve in public ministry. He was laicized in December 2011.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis continues to encourage anyone who suspects abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult within Church ministry—or any setting including the home or school—to first contact law enforcement. Any act of abuse against a minor or vulnerable adult is reprehensible and morally repugnant and we will not tolerate it.

Our first priority is to create and maintain safe environments where the Gospel of Jesus Christ can flourish. This means ensuring that clergy, employees, volunteers, and the young are aware of healthy boundaries and the societal problem of sexual abuse. It also means creating an environment for and implementing productive steps to promote a healthy clergy.

Anyone having knowledge of sexual abuse within a parish should call the proper authorities, and is encouraged to notify the archdiocese's Victim Assistance Coordinator at 651-291-4497.

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