SCtimes.com: A lawsuit filed today against St. John’s Abbey accuses the religious order of knowing about sexual abuse allegations against a member of the order as far back as 1958, yet letting him teach at St. John’s until 1990.
The lawsuit alleges fraud by intentional non-disclosure and fraud by intentional misrepresentation and accuses the abbey of keeping what it knew about the Rev. Allen Tarlton quiet.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former student at St. John’s Prep, where Tarlton taught English. Identified in the lawsuit only as John Doe LP, the student was sexually abused by Tarlton in the early 1980s, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that at least three abbots of St. John’s Abbey knew that Tarlton was an abuser but kept putting him into teaching roles, or didn’t stop others from letting him teach, at St. John’s and in other locations in the United States and the Bahamas.
According to the lawsuit, Tarlton was sent to psychiatric treatment and several times for alcohol and sex offender treatment between 1960 and 1983. The lawsuit accuses Tarlton of sexually abusing students most recently in 1985.
The abbey in April 2002 named Tarlton as one of more than a dozen priests in the abbey who faced restrictions on their movements and work activities because of allegations of sexual abuse against them. In court depositions for previous lawsuits, Tarlton has admitted that he sexually abused students.
Later that same year, the abbey removed Tarlton from his position as director of its Oblate program.
The Oblate program allows lay people to form a closer relationship with God by integrating prayer and work in society. Oblates don’t take vows and don’t live in a religious community, but they devote themselves to the manifestations of the Benedictine faith.
The lawsuit accuses the abbey of knowing about Tarlton’s proclivity to abuse children in the mid-1950s. It accuses the abbey superiors of sending him to treatment and transferring him to different schools in different states and countries.
That pattern of response shows an “adherence to the code of secrecy,” said Jeff Anderson, the St. Paul attorney who is representing the man suing the abbey. The abbey committed fraud by not telling students about Tarlton’s abusive history and instead holding out the abbey, prep school and university as places where children would be safe from sexual abuse, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit indicates that the man suing Tarlton didn’t know about the alleged fraud being committed by the abbey until this year, when his mother sent him information about Tarlton and Tarlton’s abusive history.