Francis Hoefgen: Portrait of an abusive priest

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Father Fran Hoefgen and the old St. Boniface in Hastings that merged with Guardian Angels to become St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
For four years he went into Minnesota parishes that were either struggling financially, or from sexual abuse allegations, and helped smooth things over. Then his conscience caught up with him.

Patrick Wall is convinced that he might still be in the Order of St. Benedict today had it not been for Francis Hoefgen, a troublesome priest who was quietly removed from a parish in Hastings. Wall was ordained a couple months later and soon vaulted into Hoefgen's old spot.

SEE ALSO: How Patrick Wall became the Catholic church's worst nightmare

The year was in 1993 -- almost a decade after Hoefgen admitted to giving a teenage boy a blowjob. Police and prosecutors knew about it, and had done nothing.

In spring of 1983, Hoefgen was serving as associate pastor of St. Boniface in Cold Spring and making pastoral visits to the St. Cloud Hospital, where he met a suicidal teen whom we'll refer to as John.

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Patrick Wall around the time he replaced Francis Hoefgen
During one of Hoefgen's visits, John confided that he was conflicted about his sexuality. Hoefgen responded, according to court documents, that it "was okay because God couldn't hate someone for loving someone." (Multiple messages left with Hoefgen, now 63, were not returned.)

Once out of the hospital, shortly after his 17th birthday, John moved into the St. Boniface parish house to live with Hoefgen. The two went one night to see a horror movie. They held hands, and Hoefgen put his head on John's shoulder during scary scenes.

Within a few days, John moved in with a foster family. It'd be almost a whole year before he told a social service worker that he'd been sexually assaulted by the priest while they'd lived together. Hoefgen believed it was consensual, even if the boy was underage.

According to a sworn statement taken by Cold Spring police chief Vince Konz -- away from headquarters, so as not to "cause speculation" -- Hoefgen confessed that he sodomized John on two occasions. Both times they'd been watching TV, late at night, inside the parish house.
Q. Did you place his penis in your mouth?
A. Yes.
 
Q. Did you touch his penis with your hands?
A. Yes.
Hoefgen gave John absolution after the first sexual encounter, but not the second, according to court documents. "That sin is still on his conscience," Konz would later say.

Three days later, Hoefgen was admitted to the St. Luke Institute, a Catholic-run treatment facility in Maryland that's been a destination for abusive priests and monks since the late 70s.

The Stearns County DA's Office sat on the information for two and a half years, then released a one-page memo. Despite Hoefgen's confession, deputy DA Patrick Strom did not believe the priest had broken the law. The problem, he argued, had been dealt with when Hoefgen went away to treatment: "Therefore, in consideration of all the above factors, I am not persuaded that the interests of justice require further prosecution in this matter and no prosecution is contemplated."


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