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St. John's Abbey releases list of 18 monks accused of abuse

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The Abbey Church, St. John's University
The St. John's Abbey Church, designed by Marcel Breuer and dedicated in 1961. The 112-foot tall bell tower in front, known as "the banner," rises 112 feet tall and contains 2,500 tons of concrete, and rings on the quarter-hour.
Jeff Horwich/MPR News File

St. John's Abbey on Monday  released the names of 18 current and former monks who "likely have offended against minors."

The list includes nine monks living at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., under "supervised safety plans," the abbey said. Seven monks on the list are dead; two are no longer monks and no longer are connected to abbey leaders, who said they were releasing the names voluntarily.

"This list reflects our best efforts to identify those who likely have offended against minors," an abbey spokesman said in a statement. 

"That task often is complicated by the passage of time, the deaths of some of those involved and sometimes incomplete accounts of the past," the spokesman said. "Even so, we are including all 18 names to provide as complete of a list as we can to acknowledge the pain suffered by victims. This list underscores our commitment to being transparent in our policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse."

Most of the names have been made public previously. They include several where abbey officials said they decided to include the name of the monk despite the lack of corroborating evidence.

Releasing the names is a big step forward, said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney who's sued the abbey and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over allegations of clergy sexual abuse. 

"This disclosure helps us, and the survivors, come together because we all want the same thing: for kids to be protected and the truth to be known," Anderson said in a statement. 

The St. John's disclosure comes on the same day lawyers in Duluth sought the release of a list of priests accused of sexual abuse, and four days after the nearby Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a list of 34 priests, 30 of whom, it says, sexually abused children between 1950 and 2013 — on the order of a Ramsey County judge. Three of the men on the St. John's list are also on the list released Thursday by the Twin Cities archdiocese.

Here is the list published Monday by the abbey:

• Michael Bik
• Richard Eckroth
• Thomas Gillespie
• Brennan Maiers (More on Maiers.)
• Finian McDonald
• Dunstan Moorse
• James Phillips
• Francisco Schulte
• Allen Tarlton
• Andre Bennett (Deceased)
• Robert Blumeyer (Deceased)
• Cosmas Dahlheimer (Deceased. More on Dalheimer.)
• Francis Hoefgen (No longer a monk at St. John's. More on Hoefgen.)
• Othmar Hohmann (Deceased)
• Dominic Keller (Deceased)
• John Kelly (No longer a monk of St. John's)
• Pirmin Wendt (Deceased)
• Bruce Wollmering (Deceased)

Patrick Marker says he was abused by one of the named priests -- the Rev. Dunstan Moorse -- in 1983 while a student at St. John's Preparatory School. He settled a lawsuit with St. John's a decade later and then served on the abbey's external review board before resigning. Today, he's  a prominent critic of St. John's.

Marker says St. John's timed the release of its list to coincide with the similar move last week by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

"The list is the result of the archdiocese's release, and the timing for St. John's means that they'll get less attention, because the archdiocese is under such scrutiny right now," he said. "I believe their PR team is suggesting that they release their names now and it won't get as much play -- though I think that's going to backfire." 

Marker points out that 15 of the 18 names on the list had already been made public more than two years ago. He says that 2011 list was removed from the St. John's website last year and replaced with a statement saying that the abbey at that point knew of 23 clerics with credible abuse accusations against them.  

St. John's did not name the other five at that time, and it's not clear if they are among the names on this latest list. St. John's officials declined to comment beyond the written statement.

The abbey's statement on Monday said the release of the names was voluntary. But it's only publicizing this list now because of a recent lawsuit over alleged abuse by the Rev. Francis Hoefgen, said Pat Wall, another critic of the way the abbey has handled abuse claims.

Wall, who was a monk and priest at St. John's and now works with Anderson as an advocate for abuse victims, says the abbey's list is incomplete, and it will take more litigation to force the release of more names. 

Elsewhere, a Ramsey County judge has ordered the Diocese of Winona to release its list of 13 priests credibly accused of abuse. The diocese says it will comply with that order in the coming days.  Also on Monday, the Diocese of Duluth said it is reluctant to release its list said to have names of 17 priests out of fear of "harming those who may have been wrongly accused" of abuse.

MPR News editor Paul Tosto contributed to this report.