Saint Benedict said in the Rule of Benedict that we are to listen with the ear of our heart.
Considerable commentary has been spoken and written of the 22 monks of Saint John’s Abbey accused of sexually abusing minors. None, however, demonstrates the misuse of therapists to cover up Saint John’s knowledge of child sexual abuse more than the case of Reverend Allen (Gilbert) Tarlton OSB.
Five successive Abbots have known since 1958 that Father Allen repeatedly sexually abused students at Saint John’s Prep and Saint John’s University. To squelch the scandal of monks abusing students, time and time again Father Tarlton was whisked away to treatment under the cover of alcohol problems.
This was not the real story. In fact, Father Allen told Abbot Baldwin Dworshak OSB in a 1965 letter that the psychiatrist of Sartel suggested he be laicized.
What did the Abbots do?
The Abbots of Saint John’s continued to camouflage their knowledge of Father Allen’s conduct by sending him to various Catholic doctors, therapists and psychiatric facilities such as Seton Psychiatric Institute, Servants of the Paraclete and the Saint Luke Institute.
Father Allen treated with the Catholic elite such as Dr. Leo Bartemeier at Seton and Father Michael Peterson M.D. at St. Luke Institute.
Despite repeated stints in treatment Father Tarlton was allowed to continue at Saint John’s Prep as both a teacher and dorm prefect into the late 1990’s.
As far as we know, Father Tarlton continues to live at Saint John’s Abbey some 100 yards down the hill from the Prep School and University. Some will argue that there has been an evolution in psychotherapy. If Saint John’s did not hear the psychiatrist in 1965, does an evolution in psychotherapy really matter?
Jeffrey R. Anderson is an attorney and advocate working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse at Jeff Anderson & Associates.