The good thing about this is that the church didn,t hide behind the law and payed for cases going back to the 1960,s

St. John's Abbey vows to protect children from abuse

Pam Louwagie and Paul McEnroe

Star Tribune



Published Oct 2, 2002
ABUS02

Expressing his sorrow to people who had been sexually abused by monks at St. John's Abbey, Abbot John Klassen vowed Tuesday to uphold a far-reaching settlement designed to better protect children and others from abuse.

Klassen said the settlement, hammered out beginning in June between attorneys for the victims and abbey leaders, guarantees that any monk accused of abuse will not be allowed to work among children until the allegation is thoroughly investigated by an outside review board. The board, to be set up by next summer, will include law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and victims.

"What happened to you should not have happened," Klassen said, loking toward nearly a half-dozen abuse victims and their families gathered on the St. John's campus. "I cannot find the words to express my grief."

Klassen said the settlement will mean that the abbey must immediately address any suspected sexual abuse by monks or people associated with the abbey. Provisions of the settlement are designed to restore the abbey's credibility and to show the abbey is willing to directly confront sex abuse.

When asked how abuse had been allowed in previous decades, Klassen said, "It's a potent question. Human beings are frail and they make mistakes and they hurt others, even when they have been entrusted not to hurt. The culture didn't have the right set of detectors to pick it up" and make it stop.

Jeff Anderson, attorney who represented between 12 and 15 victims, hailed the settlement as a national model that should be adopted by every diocese in the country. The settlement included financial provisions, as well as a six-step process that the abbey will follow. The amount of money was not disclosed.

This is the six-step process that St. John's agreed to:

• Creation of a review board

Creation of a review board, composed of at least two clergy-abuse victims, two current or former law enforcement officials, a current or former judicial official, a parent of a clergy abuse victim and a mental health professional. The board will be created by June 2003 and will be ecumenical in character.

• Investigation

When an allegation of sexual misconduct is made against a monk or any person associated with the abbey, there will be a prompt investigation. If the accuser is a minor, a vulnerable adult, or receiving counseling, the accusation will turned over immediately to law enforcement.

• Full accounting

Any monk or person associated with the abbey who is accused of sexual misconduct will be placed on leave immediately for at least five days while the information can be turned over to a review board. Once an investigation has determined abuse has occurred, the person's identity will be turned over to bishops, church leaders and law enforcement.

When appropriate, relevant personnel records of the accused will be turned over to law enforcement officials.

When the investigating committee has substantiated the allegation, notice will be sent to parishoners, students and alumni, urging additional victims to come forward to law enforcement or the review board.

• Pastoral care and healing

The abbey will finance an off-site retreat in St. Cloud to determine the need for planning retreats with survivors. The abbey will pay for travel and overnight accommodations for the first retreat.

• Therapy

The abbey will provide funding for prompt, ongoing group and individual therapy for all survivors of sexual abuse and their families, according to agreements reached individually. The abbey will not specify the therapist and all therapy bills will be sent directly to the abbey.

• Prevention

The review board will review the abbey's existing sexual abuse policy and will make recommendations annually. "Safe touch" education will be provided to all students on an annual basis.

-- The writers are at plouwagie@startribune.com.

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Teach the Children to Never Hide in the Silence