Abbott Klassen responds to review board criticism

A St. John’s Abbey priest whose role on a review board brought criticism last month hasn’t served on the board since early 2007, according to a letter issued this week by the leader of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville.

Abbot John Klassen, in a letter to the Times, wrote that the Rev. Tom Andert was affiliated with the abbey’s External Review Board for four months at the end of 2006 and the start of 2007 but no longer is a member of that board.

Klassen said he sent out incorrect and outdated information earlier this year regarding the makeup of the review board.

That led to criticism of Andert’s participation on the board from a lawyer who represents victims of clergy sex abuse.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson last month accused Andert of inappropriate behavior with a Prep School student in the mid-1990s.

Andert was headmaster of the Prep School at the time of the conduct alleged by Anderson.

Anderson also called for Andert’s removal from the review board.

But Andert hadn’t been involved with the review board since March, Klassen said in his letter to the Times.

Klassen’s letter indicates that he was out of the country at the time Anderson made the allegations against Andert.

The abbey did not take specific questions at the time Anderson made his comments about Andert.

Abbey spokesman the Rev. William Skudlarek instead issued a statement that said “concerns were expressed about the friendship of Father Tom Andert, OSB, with a student” in 1994.

The concerns led to an intensive internal investigation, Skudlarek wrote, which included the student categorically denying to then-Abbot Timothy Kelly that any sexual misconduct had occurred.

Skudlarek’s statement did not address the timing of Andert’s service on the review board, which was created as part of a 2002 settlement of several sexual abuse claims against members of the abbey.

There have been no allegations made against Andert involving conduct that would constitute criminal sexual conduct.

And the person involved in the alleged inappropriate behavior by Andert has denied that any sexual misconduct occurred, Klassen wrote. If that person makes a complaint about sexual misconduct by Andert, the allegations will be referred to the review board. And if the claims are substantiated, that information will be made available to the media, Klassen wrote.

By David Unze,