Critics claim St. John's Abbey still holds secrets despite list - KMSP-TV

Critics claim St. John's Abbey still holds secrets despite list of suspected abusers

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St. John's Abbey claims an effort at transparency led them to disclose a list of 18 monks suspected of sexually abusing children, but critics say they are still holding back and there may be as many as 50.

In many ways, the church sex abuse crisis in Minnesota really began at St. John's Abbey, where many of the accused monks have been allowed to live a monastic life.

Few secrets were revealed via the voluntary disclosure. Many of the names of monks suspected of abusing children were already known, but knowing there are more than a dozen is still jarring.

"Anytime you see a list of 18 names it's terrifying -- 18 names times how many victims each?" Patrick Marker, who was molested by a monk at St. John's, asked.

Marker has been keeping a running list of his own at the website Behind the Pine Curtain. He believes at least five names were deliberately left off the list released Monday because the accusers are too afraid to come forward. Furthermore, he says others were left off the list because they preyed on college students of vulnerable adults.

Marker also believes the timing of the release -- one week after the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis named credibly accused priests -- was calculated.

"I think St. John's is hopeful the media won't pay attention to this," he said.

It would be easy for the St. John's list to get lost with the others that have come out, but victim's advocates have always been interested in the names because of two very high-profile missing person's cases. St. John's college student Josh Guimond vanished from campus 11 years ago while leaving a campus party, and he hasn't been seen since. Then, there's Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted 24 years ago from nearby St. Joseph, where the local Catholic priest was Father Tom Gillespe, a Benedictine monk who, by then, had already molested a 10-year-old boy.

"He was one of the first people to visit the Wetterling's home to console the family," Marker said. "I'm not saying he did it, but I believe a full examination of facts will lead us to Josh and Jacob."

Marker believes the numbers of abusers that St. John's Abbey knows about may total at least 50 altogether. Three of the monks on the list were also on the list released by the archdiocese, meaning they also worked at parishes in the Twin Cities; however, it is important to note that Benedictine monasteries are operated separately from the archdiocese.

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