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St. Thomas spokesman Doug Hennes said the university offered a position to Bongila a month before the lawsuit was filed. The school had been in discussions with him about possible employment since 2001, Hennes said. Before the priest started in his new job in 2005, he notified the school of the abuse allegations and then-President Dennis Dease reviewed the case. He concluded that there was no reason to withdraw the job offer, Hennes said.
Still, Hennes said new President Julie Sullivan asked in October that Bongila’s situation be reviewed as part of a newly launched independent investigation regarding clergy sexual abuse allegations that may impact the university. She asked to be notified of any facts “that would warrant placing Bongila on a leave of absence,” Hennes said. “At this point, she has not been made aware of any such concerns.”
Advocates want more names
Also on Monday, a lawsuit was filed in Duluth on behalf of a man in his 50s who said he was sexually abused by the Rev. Robert Klein at Sacred Heart Church in Duluth. The lawsuit by the firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates asks the court to order the release of the Duluth Diocese’s list of 17 credibly accused clergy.
The lists were compiled in 2004 at the request of the U.S. conference of bishops. Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North ordered the archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona to produce their lists by Dec. 17. Names added to the list after 2004 are to be made public by Jan. 6.
The St. John’s list released Monday includes nine monks who are living at the abbey under supervision, seven monks who are deceased and two men, Brother John Kelly and the Rev. Francis Hoefgen, who were released from their religious vows, the abbey said.
Advocates say the list does not include four monks previously identified by the abbey, including former abbot John Eidenschink, the Rev. Steven Lilly, the Rev. James Kelly and the Rev. Isaac Connolly. It also doesn’t include the name of a former abbot, the late Timothy Kelly, founder of the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute at St. John’s.
Meanwhile, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is calling for St. John’s officials to post the latest list of names on its website, including work histories, photos and current residences, and to move monks under its supervision to locations where they cannot harm children.
Sipe, who attended school and later served as a monk at St. John’s for more than 25 years, said the abuse problems have overshadowed the abbey’s good work. “There are so many good men there, they ought to receive credit for the good they do — but without dismissing the harm that others have done.”
St. John’s spokesman Senna said the abbey is using new abuse policies and procedures established during the past decade, which assure victims that their allegations of abuse against minors will be investigated thoroughly.
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