A Catholic priest in Minnetonka who told his parishioners two weeks ago that the church needs to rid itself of priests involved in sexual misconduct and “hold those who covered it up very much accountable” has been renting his townhouse to an abusive priest since 2006.
The Rev. David Ostrowski said in an interview Wednesday that his renter, ex-priest Fran Hoefgen, has been a friend since they were monks together at St. John’s Abbey nearly 30 years ago. Ostrowski, who is pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, said his housing relationship with Hoefgen it is merely an act of friendship.
“I know some people will see it as a criticism of me, but I was just trying to be a friend to him, that’s all,” Ostrowski told the Star Tribune.
Hoefgen admitted to police in 1984 that he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy at a parish in Cold Spring, Minn., where he served as a priest. He wasn’t charged with a crime, and church officials reassigned him to a parish in Hastings without telling parishioners about the previous abuse. On Tuesday, Hoefgen was accused in a new lawsuit of sexually abusing a boy at the Hastings parish.
Hastings Police Chief Bryan Schafer said Wednesday that his department has opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
Ostrowski said he knew only that Hoefgen had abused a young parishioner in Cold Spring. “He’s not a pedophile,” he said.
Public real estate records show that Ostrowski spent more than $260,000 in 2006 to buy the townhouse in the 3800 block of Gauvitte St. in Columbia Heights. He said Wednesday that he bought it as an investment property and immediately rented it to Hoefgen, who needed a place to live. Ostrowski was adamant that he has never lived there with Hoefgen, but government records show that Ostrowski has used the Gauvitte Street address for his driver’s license and voter registration.
Ostrowski said he was referring to a former priest at Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Rev. Jerome Kern, at mass on Nov. 9 when he urged parishioners to go to police with any reports of sexual abuse and said: “We have to rid our church of these mentally ill men, and we also have to hold those who covered it up very much accountable.” Kern is the subject of new sexual abuse claims.
Ostrowski said he didn’t have an obligation to tell his congregation about his relationship with Hoefgen. “No, because it doesn’t have anything to do with them,” he said. But he added that he is working on making some disclosure.
Ostrowski said Hoefgen acquired partial ownership of townhouse last year. But now Ostrowski is trying to re-establish full ownership of the property.
Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso said Wednesday that church officials were not aware that Ostrowski was renting a townhouse to Hoefgen, who left the priesthood in December 2011.