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

  • Article by: AMY FORLITI
  • Associated Press
  • December 9, 2013 - 6:05 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — St. John's Abbey published the names Monday of 18 current and former monks it says likely have sexually abused minors, but victims' advocates say the list is incomplete and years overdue.

The list was posted on the abbey's website less than a month after a lawsuit was filed requesting disclosure of the names of monks accused of sexual misconduct. It also comes a week after a Ramsey County judge ordered the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona to release similar lists.

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

As part of an earlier settlement, the abbey posted a list of accused abusers on its website in 2011. But that list was taken down last year, said Patrick Marker, who runs a website devoted to victims of sexual abuse in the St. John's religious community.

The list revealed Monday is slightly different, and includes three names that are new to an abbey list but have been published on Marker's website, Behind the Pine Curtain.

Marker said the three new names should have been on the abbey's list earlier. In one case, for example, an abbey official wrote to a victim in 2011, promising that the name of the alleged abuser, who had other allegations against him, would be added, according to a copy of the letter provided to The Associated Press.

"They haven't done victims any favors here; they've just done what they should've done two years ago," Marker said, adding that he believes about five more names should be included. "The list is hardly proactive as they want to make it seem."

The abbey's list includes nine monks who live at the abbey under supervision, seven who are dead, and two men who have been dispensed from their religious vows, the abbey said.

All cases were reviewed by either the abbey's external board or the abbot, and even though complaints against some could not be completely substantiated, Senna said, the abbey included these men to acknowledge victims' pain.

Jeff Anderson, a victims' attorney, said the disclosure is a big step toward keeping communities safer.

"It's the right thing to do and it's never too late to do the right thing," Anderson said in a statement, adding that survivors "all want the same thing: for kids to be protected and the truth to be known."

The abbey is run by the Order of St. Benedict.

The Roman Catholic dioceses in Minnesota have similar lists of priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. Those diocesan lists were compiled in 2004 as part of a national study examining the scope of clergy sexual misconduct.

Last week, a Ramsey County judge ordered the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Winona diocese to disclose their lists of accused priests. The archdiocese revealed the names of 34 priests accused of sexually abusing minors, and said updates are expected.

The Winona diocese plans to release its list by next week's court-ordered deadline.

On Monday, Anderson's firm filed a new lawsuit against the Diocese of Duluth, asking that it release its list of 17 accused priests.

The Rev. James Bissonette, vicar general, said the Duluth diocese has been reluctant to disclose names of clergy "because the list is an imperfect means for identifying those credibly accused." He said the diocese is seeking a way to name the credibly accused without harming those who may have been wrongly accused.

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