Rev. Stan Maslowski tells a story of sex, theft and grace

Rev. Stan Maslowski
The Rev. Stanley Maslowski
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

A Twin Cities priest whose sexual urges led him to steal church funds and serve time in the Hennepin County workhouse is calling on his archdiocese to face the clergy sexual abuse crisis more openly.

Explore the full investigation Clergy abuse, cover-up and crisis in the Twin Cities Catholic church

"I have often felt that the Archdiocese is more interested in its public image and avoiding lawsuits than the welfare of its people and priests," writes the Rev. Stan Maslowski, 77, in his new book, "How to Heal When the Church Hurts."

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"The Catholic Church, in many places, has paid dearly for its cover-up of clergy misconduct."

Maslowski, now retired, self-published the 68-page volume this month, detailing his experiences and reflections on the clergy sex-abuse crisis. The priest describes how he embezzled from the church to pay for visits to strip clubs, massage parlors and adult bookstores. "I always rationalized I deserved the extra money for extra work I was doing," he wrote.

• The book: Read an excerpt from "How to Heal When the Church Hurts"

Maslowski says, and the archdiocese concurs, that no one has accused him of harming children or parishioners.

The archdiocese has blocked him from signing copies of his book at the parish where he used to live. A spokesman for the archdiocese said a book-signing on parish property would not be appropriate, as Maslowski is no longer in ministry.

"The Catholic Church, in many places, has paid dearly for its cover-up of clergy misconduct."

The book tells the story of what Maslowski calls his redemption — turning his shame into grace. He said he hopes the church can achieve a similar turnaround. He thinks the church has trouble admitting that priests are sinners, too.

Maslowski has no such reluctance. In interviews with MPR News, he was candid about his past. He was a big tipper in strip clubs:

"Most guys maybe tip a dollar or something," he said. "When I was in the heyday of my addiction — and this is way back in the 1980s — if I liked some woman taking her clothes off, I might give her a hundred-dollar bill, you know. I was so crazy and so sick."

Maslowski's spending spree came crashing down in 1990. The bookkeeper at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Corcoran, where Maslowski was pastor, reported him to the archdiocese for embezzling. Maslowski pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $73,000 and was sentenced to 60 days in the workhouse.

Maslowski left ministry and went to work as a paralegal to pay his debts. He's still making payments to Catholic Mutual, the archdiocese's insurer.

After several years of therapy and meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous, he asked then-Archbishop John Roach to let him return to ministry. A therapist agreed that Maslowski was ready, provided he not handle parish money or counsel women and that he continue his 12-step groups and be supervised by another priest. (Records show that the archdiocese's vicar general, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, sometimes neglected to inform parishes of those restrictions.) In recent years, Maslowski admitted, he'd developed a new addiction: He began attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, as well.

• MPR News investigation: Betrayed by Silence

Roach assigned him to serve as associate pastor at St. Peter in North St. Paul in 1995. In an interview, Maslowski recalled the reaction he got from the parish:

Former Archbishop John Roach
Former Archbishop John Roach died in 2003.
Photo courtesy of the University of St. Thomas/MPR News file

"The pastor was asked by Archbishop Roach to read a letter to the people disclosing my situation about the theft of the money, and he did that," Maslowski said. "And surprisingly, at a couple of the masses, they gave me a standing ovation, clapping. So disclosure was not a bad thing at all, and there was disclosure."

But the disclosure did not extend to the reason Maslowski had stolen the money. Jennifer Haselberger, former chancellor for canonical affairs at the archdiocese, told MPR News that church leaders failed to give parishioners the whole story. "They weren't publicly acknowledging the sexual problem that was at the heart of the theft," she said.

Maslowski agreed. In an interview, he said he told colleagues and parishioners more of his story in individual conversations, and felt they accepted him for who he was.

Jennifer Haselberger
Jennifer Haselberger photographed Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 at her St. Paul home. She is the former top canon lawyer for the archdiocese. She resigned in April.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

"I believe there's there's more value in being open," he said, "and I feel sad there isn't enough of that on the archdiocesan level."

Maslowski said he wished church leaders had been more forthcoming about disclosing his sexual misbehavior. He also said church leaders should have listened to Haselberger's concerns about the archdiocese's handling of sex abuse cases.

"If she would have been treated with respect," he said, "if they would have been open to her concerns and acted on them when she expressed them, you wouldn't have had all those stories."

In fact, Maslowski was a particular subject of Haselberger's complaints. Before she resigned from her job in 2013, Haselberger wrote a memo to Archbishop John Nienstedt, briefing him on Maslowski's history. She told MPR News that Maslowski's file was long, interesting and "colorful."

"I said, 'Well, I'm not afraid of MPR. I'll call them.' And I did."

Haselberger resigned in protest last April — citing the Maslowski case in her letter of resignation — and took her concerns to MPR News. Maslowski called the newsroom to offer his own story last fall, after MPR News broadcast its first story in the investigation.

"That particular day when I made that call, somebody from the archdiocese called me and said, 'We want you to move right away over to [the Leo C.] Byrne residence [for retired priests] because you're on MPR's list.' And I said, 'Well, I'm not afraid of MPR. I'll call them.' And I did," he said. "And then they weren't too happy I made that call."

Maslowski said the archdiocese told him last July he was being removed him from ministry because of what the archdiocese's Delegate for Safe Environment, the Rev. Dan Griffith, called "a change in the church's political climate." Maslowski has appealed to an archdiocesan board to let him resume saying funeral Masses and filling in at his former parishes.

He hopes his new book will open up a conversation about healing for the victims, the church and priests.

"A priest can have problems acting out sexually and he can recover from that," he said. "You're never cured, but you can recover if you keep working the program. And you can, in my opinion, you know, be a good priest. But I'm not talking now about those who have the problem of molesting children or some other person. That's another situation. But just the garden-valley sex addict like myself, I think, can recover and can experience redemption."

EXCERPT | How to Heal when the Church Hurts: Reflections on Sex, Sickness, Sin and Salvation by Rev. Stan Maslowksi

Chapter 7: How do you heal? Transformation

The publication on Dec. 5, 2013, of the names of 30 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was an important step in the healing process. It can help heal the sex abuse victims. It can help heal the credibly accused priests. It can help heal the whole church in the Archdiocese. It can help heal the whole community in the St. Paul and Minneapolis areas and elsewhere.

With the publication of the names more possible victims can know who are the perpetrators. To be healed, the victims of sex abuse must be believed. They need to let out all their feelings of anger and distress. They need advocates who will help them find justice and healing. These advocates can help them confront those who have abused them in person, if possible. Counseling is needed, often for a long time, to heal the wounds of abuse. As healing continues, sex abuse victims become sex abuse survivors.

The perpetrators, now known publicly, have added incentive to continue their healing process from sex addiction and other mental, emotional and spiritual sicknesses. The sex abusers are not bad men but men who were very sick and hopefully are in a healing process. Many of them may have been abused themselves as children. They have many wounds that need to be healed. The church needs to help them in the continued healing process.

The publication of the names can help heal the whole church in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis because it breaks the cover up and silence. It gives the church the opportunity to grieve the losses caused by clergy sex abuse. It gives the Church a way to reach out to victims and promote reconciliation. it gives the Church motivation to prevent future clergy sex abuse by good screening of seminarians and by providing good education and formation in healthy sexuality and celibacy to seminarians and all active priests. It provides the challenge for the Church to change from a clerical culture of rigid control to a collegial culture of partnership with all the people of God. Some concrete signs of this change would be the establishment of an archdiocesan pastoral council that shares leadership, allowing lay preaching at parish masses and allowing the third form of the sacrament of Reconciliation with General Absolution. These would be signs of letting go of control and living in partnership. Our Church can be a transformed church.

Finally the publication of the names is a step in healing of the relationship with the whole community in the St. Paul and Minneapolis areas and elsewhere. The release of the names has been a subject of controversy for ten years. The healing process can continue if the Catholic Church does a better job of communicating with the media. Answer all questions whenever asked before the television cameras and reporters of all media. Don't hide behind written statements. Church officials need to be outgoing in news conferences like Pope Francis.

We all need healing in one way or another, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Jesus Christ brings us healing. Sometimes our requests for healing are not promptly met, just as Martha's and Mary's request for healing of their brother Lazarus, was not promptly met. Jesus used the death of Lazarus as an opportunity to raise him from the dead, a sign of eternal transformation. Our healing step by step is not merely recovery but transformation.