The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Rev. Raymond Francisco Schulte of abusing the boy in the mid-1980s and accuses St. John’s Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict of concealing a pattern of abuse by Schulte and other members.
Schulte, who is known by the names Father Ray and Father Francisco, was listed as a monk subject to restrictions by the abbey in the fall of 2002 because credible allegations of sexual misconduct had been made against him. Schulte later asked for and was granted a leave from the abbey and recently was in Rome giving tours of a monastery there.
The abbey released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying Abbot John Klassen became aware of a possible lawsuit against Schulte in April and that Klassen asked Schulte to return to Collegeville, and Schulte did.
The lawsuit alleges Schulte sexually abused an altar boy in North Carolina in the 1980s when he was serving a parish there as a liaison to the Hispanic community. The lawsuit accuses Schulte of abusing the boy on a trip to Mexico and recruiting the boy to enroll at St. John’s Prep. The boy and his brother enrolled at the prep school but left before graduating.
The lawsuit accuses Schulte of abusing three boys at a boarding school in Puerto Rico, where he was assigned as a priest and teacher. It accuses Schulte of recruiting at least one of the boys to attend St. John’s Prep when Schulte returned to teaching there.
Schulte was the chaplain at the prep school from 1980-1983 and 1986-1988.
The lawsuit accuses the prep school, Order of St. Benedict and abbey of knowing about Schulte’s history of abuse and concealing it, along with abuse perpetrated by several other monks. The lawsuit alleges the cover-up was intended to protect priests from criminal prosecution, “maintain or increase charitable contributions and/or avoid public scandal,” according to the suit.
The abbey’s statement Tuesday acknowledged an allegation against Schulte from an incident in 1984. The abbey said then-Abbot Jerome Theisen received the allegation in 1992 and immediately enacted “prudent, non-risk” limitations on Schulte’s ministry.
Schulte took a three-year canonical leave from the abbey in June 2003 “for the purpose of vocational discernment,” according to the statement. That leave put Schulte outside the oversight of the superior of the abbey.
Schulte spent time with his family and traveled to Rome, where he worked and lived at Sant’Anselmo, where his monastic superiors were aware of his situation and supervised his work and life, according to the statement.
Schulte was at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City in 2005-2006, translating his dissertation from English into Spanish.
“He was supervised there by the Rector of the Shrine, who was apprised of his situation,” the abbey statement said.
Schulte spent significant time from April 2007 to January 2009 with his family in North Carolina. He cared for his ailing mother, who died in May 2008. His father died in November 2008.
Schulte’s permanent address from 2006 on was Subiaco Abbey in Italy, where he was supervised by superiors “apprised of his situation,” the statement said.
“When Saint John’s Abbey became aware of a possible lawsuit in April 2010, Abbot John Klassen asked Father Francisco to return to Saint John’s Abbey, which he chose to do,” the statement read. “Father Francisco was not permitted to perform sacramental ministry as a priest from 2002 to the present.”
The lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County District Court by attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented 13 victims in a 2002 settlement with St. John’s that was hailed as landmark. The suit against Schulte and St. John’s Abbey was filed because promises made by the abbey in that settlement “seem to have been broken,” Anderson said.
One of the promises, he said, was that St. John’s would place restrictions on members who had credible allegations of sexual misconduct against them. Allowing Schulte to travel to Rome while remaining a member of the Order of St. Benedict “seems to be a direct, grievous” violation of that promise, Anderson said.
“We’re really sad and full of sorrow that this action is taken today,” Anderson said.
The victim, who is 40, is referred to as Jon Doe SS in the civil complaint. He was abused by Schulte when he was 14-16 and while he traveled with Schulte as Schulte ministered to parishes in North Carolina, the suit states. His brother was 12 when the abuse occurred, according the lawsuit.
Schulte groomed the boys by offering to tutor them in Spanish, Anderson said. Anderson held up seven fingers at a news conference Tuesday announcing the lawsuit, an indication of the number of victims who have reported Schulte abused them, he said.
Anderson had a Spanish interpreter at the news conference, streamed live on his law firm’s Web site, to get the word out to any Spanish speakers who might have had contact with Schulte.
He said he was disappointed that the 2002 settlement didn’t prevent lawsuits such as the one filed against Schulte. At the time of the settlement, Anderson praised Klassen as the right person at the right time to deal with the problem at St. John’s.
“I personally hailed St. John’s for that effort. I gave them credit then. I wish I could today,” Anderson said.
And while it’s the order, abbey and prep school that are the targets of the lawsuit, the responsibility for what led to the suit lies with Klassen, he said.
“It’s a failing of that institution, not the man,” he said, referring to Klassen. “But to the extent that he’s the head of the order and he can move that institution forward,” he’s responsible, Anderson said.
Tucked into the lawsuit is an allegation that Anderson associate Patrick Noaker highlighted at the news conference.
A different victim in 1982 reported abuse by another monk at St. John’s to the chaplain at St. John’s Prep. That chaplain was Schulte, said Noaker. There is no evidence that Schulte did anything with the complaint, Noaker said.
“It just shows how infected St. John’s was,” Noaker said. “We have no idea how many other kids did that.”
The abbey has a legal and moral obligation to make public the names of any monks with credible abuse allegations against them, Anderson said.
He mentioned Bruce Wollmering and Michael Bik as two others whose names he believes should have been revealed to the public earlier than they were. Bik and Wollmering were named publicly, with the Rev. Robert Blumeyer, in June 2006 by the abbey, and Klassen at the time said credible allegations existed against all three.
Allegations against Bik were made in 1997 and included inappropriate sexual conduct with two teenagers in the 1970s before he joined the abbey and before his ordination. The allegations against Wollmering were made in 2004 and include sexual misconduct early in the 1980s reported by a former St. John’s student.
At the time, abbey spokesman Rev. William Skudlarek responded to accusations that the information should have been released sooner by saying that “is not always the best way to go considering the feelings of the victims involved.”
Blumeyer died before the allegations were made public. Wollmering has since died.
Bik continued to work at St. John’s Prep for five years after he was accused of sexual misconduct. Klassen, who became abbot in 2002, said in 2006 that he would have handled those allegations differently had they been made to him at that time.