Lawsuit alleges abuse by Father Hoefgen, former monk of St. John’s Abbey

Categories: Around the Diocese

Dec. 6, 2013, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

Francis Hoefgen, a former priest of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, is the center of a lawsuit filed Nov. 19 in Dakota County, Minn.

The complaint alleges that Hoefgen, while a priest of St. John’s Abbey, sexually abused a boy in 1983. At the time, Hoefgen was assigned to St. Boniface Parish in Cold Spring. The complaint also alleges Hoefgen engaged in sexual contact with the plaintiff, Doe 27, from approximately 1989-1992. At the time, the plaintiff was approximately 10-13 years old and Hoefgen was assigned to St. Boniface Parish in Hastings, Minn., which is in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

hoffgenHoefgen left St. John’s Abbey in 2011, the year he was laicized.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Jeff Anderson and Associates, names St. John’s Abbey, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, St. Luke Institute and Hoefgen as defendants.

The case alleges Hoefgen inflicted unpermitted, harmful and offensive sexual contact several times upon the plaintiff. It alleges that St. John’s Abbey and the archdiocese concealed Hoefgen’s sexual assaults and pedophilic/ephebophilic tendencies from the general public, attacked the credibility of the victims and protected the defendant from criminal prosecution.

The complaint also accuses the abbey of negligence, negligent supervision and negligent retention. The archdiocese and St. Luke Institute, which is a Catholic education and treatment center in Maryland, were also negligent, the complaint states. St. John’s Abbey sent Hoefgen to St. Luke’s for evaluation after being notified of the priest’s sexual misconduct. Hoefgen stayed at St. Luke’s for about six months, according to the complaint.

“We are saddened to hear of allegations of misconduct by a former member of our monastic community who left St. John’s in 2011,” reads a statement from St. John’s Abbey.

The statement says that it cannot comment on the specifics of the case at this time. It stresses the abbey’s commitment to the safety of young people.

“As a community, St. 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,” the statement continues. “Thus, over the past decade, we have developed policies and procedures to respond responsibly in a manner that includes a pastoral focus.”

The plaintiff is asking for $50,000 plus costs, disbursements, attorney’s fees and interest from the defendants. The complaint requests that St. John’s and the archdiocese publically release the names of all credibly accused child molesting clerics, the clerics’ history of abuse, their pattern of grooming and sexual behavior and last known address. This request includes releasing St. John’s and the archdiocese’s documents on these clerics.

In response to a separate lawsuit, a Ramsey County district judge ruled Dec. 2 that the archdiocese as well as the Diocese of Winona must release the names of priests accused of sexually abusing minors. The ruling says that the dioceses must provide their birth year, year of ordination, parishes they served, current status and current residence.

The archdiocese released the names Dec. 5. The Diocese of Winona was also to comply with the judicial order.