Jeff Anderson sues St. John's Abbey, releases files of five accused monks

Categories: Crime, Religion
From left, attorney Mike Bryant, Lloyd Van Vleet, attorney Jeff Anderson, and priest-turned-whistleblower Patrick Wall
Father Richard Eckroth sexually abused two boys at a northern Minnesota cabin in the 1970s, according to a lawsuit filed Monday against St. John's Abbey.

At a press conference, crusading attorney Jeff Anderson pointed the finger squarely at the abbey for giving Eckroth unlimited access to children as young as eight on weekend trips and for failing to tell families about the danger.

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One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who wished to stay anonymous, released a statement urging other victims to come forward about the way church officials have put their own interests above those of parishioners: "Maybe then, they will make changes at the top of this misguided leadership."

Brother Aelred Senna of St. John's Abbey released a statement Monday calling sexual crimes "morally reprehensible" and asserting that policy changes have been implemented in the last decade "to assure that the mistakes of our past are not repeated."

Senna notes that sorting out the truth of Eckroth's alleged crimes is difficult considering he suffers from advanced dementia and they took place 40 years ago. What's more, "While there have been credible claims of inappropriate behavior by Eckroth, there has also been conflicting testimony regarding allegations against him."

Anderson's lawsuit is intended to force files out of St. John's Abbey in the same way that another lawsuit has forced files out of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The abbey feeds Benedictine priests to the archdiocese, and so the two are linked in these allegations.

To begin making his case, Anderson also released the files of five other St. John's monks accused of sexually abusing children in the Twin Cities area, which he obtained through another lawsuit against the archdiocese. They include Robert Blumeyer, Cosmas Dahlheimer, Thomas Gillespie, Francis Hoefgen, and Brennan Maiers.

The files, though heavily redacted, total hundreds of pages and suggest that the archdiocese and the abbey quietly shuffled around bad priests to avoid scandal.

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