Victims' attorney calls for removal of Crookston bishop

Attorney Jeff Anderson is calling for the Vatican to remove Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Crookston Diocese for failing to remove priests who abused or fantasized about sexually abusing children.

Anderson, who represents victims of clergy sexual abuse, released documents and video depositions indicating Hoeppner knew or should have known of the priests' conduct and psychological struggles. That material has been provided to the Vatican, but Anderson said the church has not responded.

“To this day, not one bishop has been directly removed by this pope or any of his predecessors for their complicity in these crimes. Not once. It's time,” Anderson said.

The Crookston diocese issued a statement saying Hoeppner cooperated with a Vatican investigation of his conduct. Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda led that probe.

Hebda said in a statement the investigation is complete and “final resolution of this matter will be determined in Rome.”

The archbishop said that several qualified lay persons conducted the investigation, assisted by outside experts, including a retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice. Hebda said his report on Hoeppner includes all investigative information gathered, as well as summaries, analysis, findings of fact, and recommendations.

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“The next step in the process is for the Congregation for Bishops to determine what other actions, if any, are necessary,” Hebda wrote.

Hebda had been authorized by the bishops to investigate allegations that Hoeppner "carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical misconduct." Police were notified of the allegation.

Hoeppner was sued two years ago by a Crookston parishoner who said Hoeppner had pressured him to withdraw allegations of sexual abuse by a Crookston priest in 1971. That suit was settled in 2017.

In July, the Crookston Diocese agreed to pay $5 million to settle lawsuits by clergy sexual abuse victims.