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St. John's Abbey Urged to Release More Information on Alleged Abusers

Updated: 05/20/2014 7:36 AM
Created: 05/19/2014 7:05 AM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart

St. John's Abbey was urged Monday to release more information about clergy members accused of sex abuse.

Files on five monks from St. John's were released at a news conference, which was held by Anderson and Associates, the law firm currently suing the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. They were obtained in a 2013 lawsuit filed in Ramsey County.

A former monk and an alleged victim are among those asking for more disclosure.

The alleged victim said he was abused sexually by Father Robert Blumeyer while Blumeyer was a monk at St. John's.

Blumeyer's file was released Monday. Documents show Blumeyer was a philosophy professor for three decades at St. John's before he died in 1983.

"I'm uncertain and afraid like I have been for so many years. I had an alcoholic father, and I think when I first met Father Robert that I had found a Father figure," said Lloyd Van Vleet, alleged victim of abuse.

That was part of a letter Van Vleet wrote to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1997, accusing Father Robert Blumeyer, who is now dead, of sexually abusing him at his Wayzata parish of St. Bartholomew from 1969-1970.

"I was around 14, as a part of the grooming process he had a stack of naked pictures of young boys," said Van Vleet.

Van Vleet says he got no response from the archdiocese until 2006 when they arranged a meeting for him with St. John's Abbey. The abbey then offered him a $100,000 settlement. He accepted the  check.

Other files released were of monks Cosmas Dahlheimer, Thomas Gillespie, Francis Hoefgan and Brennan Maiers. Robert Blumeyer and Cosmas Dahlheimer are dead. Thomas Gillespie and Brennan Maiers live on St. John's campus. Francis Hoefgen left Collegeville in 2011.

"St. Johns has got big files that cover the entire history of a number of offenders yet to be revealed, and that's what this lawsuit seeks to achieve," said Jeff Anderson, Jeff Anderson and Associates.

Attorney Jeff Anderson said the files he obtained on the Abbey were heavily redacted. On June 19, he plans to ask Ramsey County Judge John Van de North to order the full release of the files. Anderson said his claim will be backed by a law passed in Minnesota last year that allows courts to force disclosure of information.

Anderson also announced a new lawsuit filed in Stearns County by two men who claim they were sexually assaulted by Father Richard Eckroth while at a cabin in the early 1970s. 

Eckroth served as a monk at St. John's Abbey, according to the Diocese of St. Cloud, which named him as one of 33 credibly accused priests in January.

Former monk Patrick Wall, who served at St. John's, said the order moved Eckroth around after they became aware of allegations he was a perpetrator in order to stop people from finding out he was victimizing parishioners. Father Eckroth is still living on St. John's campus, but is not allowed to go near students.

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Saint John's Abbey released the following statement Monday:

Saint John’s Abbey was made aware of these allegations against Fr. Richard Eckroth late last week. Sorting out the truth of allegations against Fr. Eckroth is complicated by his advanced dementia. He has suffered from dementia for well over a decade, and the disease has taken an increasingly serious toll on his health and cognitive abilities. Incidents involving Eckroth are alleged to have occurred more than forty years ago. While there have been credible claims of inappropriate behavior by Eckroth, there has also been conflicting testimony regarding allegations against him. For many years, he has lived under close monitoring, both because of his disease and as a result of restrictions imposed on him. We will cooperate to seek the truth as we have in the past when allegations have been presented against members of the monastic community.

Over ten years ago Saint John’s Abbey made public the names of the five monks named today. They were also included in the list of names we released this past December. Saint John’s has complied with all court orders it has received to produce documents.

As a community, Saint John’s holds any form of sexual abuse to be morally reprehensible and a violation of our vow to a celibate and chaste life committed to mutual respect among all persons. Thus, over the past decade, we have developed policies and procedures to respond responsibly and effectively to investigate allegations of abuse, to hold accountable those who have abused, to keep the community safe and to reach out to victims with sincere offers of pastoral counseling. In addition, all members of our community against whom established allegations have been made are covered by safety plans, and we prominently display sexual abuse information on our website. Saint John’s continues to be dedicated to working with survivors of abuse. We are committed to doing everything possible to assure that the mistakes of our past are not repeated. Information on Saint John's commitment to the safety of young people can be found at http://www.saintjohnsabbey.org/info/safe-environment/.

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The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis released the following statement Monday:

The five men whose files were released by Jeff Anderson today are or were members of the Benedictine religious order who had assignments in the archdiocese at some point in the past. All of them have been previously named by the archdiocese as having credible claims of sexual abuse made against them. None of these names are new.

These five men's names, assignment history and current status were previously disclosed by the archdiocese as part of our ongoing commitment to disclosure and transparency. This information was posted on our website in December 2013 and February 2014.


· Robert Blumeyer
· Cosmas Dahlheimer
· Thomas Gillespie
· Francis Hoefgen
· Brennan Maiers

Most of these men have had significant media coverage in the past two decades. Information is also available on the 'St. Johns Abbey website: http://www.saintjohnsabbey.org/info/safe-environment

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