Settlement Talks Between Survivors, the St. Cloud Diocese and St. John’s Have Stalled, Prompting More Drastic Measures
(St. Cloud, MN) – Today attorney Jeff Anderson, attorneys from his firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, and attorney Mike Bryant filed a lawsuit against St. John’s Abbey and the Diocese of St. Cloud on behalf of a man who was sexually abused at St. Joseph’s Parish in St. Joseph (Minnesota) when he was a third-grader in 1978. The Plaintiff, Tim Nahan, was sexually abused by prolific offender Father Cosmas Dahlheimer, OSB, a St. John’s monk, when Nahan was an 8-year-old student and altar boy at St. Joseph’s. Dahlheimer was Associate Pastor at St. Joseph’s from 1978 to 1980.
Nahan, who first brought his lawsuit as Doe 104 in 2016, courageously asked that his name be used publicly now. Nahan brought his lawsuit in 2016 under Minnesota’s Child Victims Act, which allowed survivors of sexual abuse to bring previously time-barred claims from 2013 to 2016. The lawsuit was filed in Stearns County District Court today after several years of trying to resolve the case outside of the court system unsuccessfully.
Settlement Efforts with St. John’s and the Diocese of St. Cloud Stalled, Requiring More Drastic Action
Anderson, a St. Paul Attorney who has represented thousands of sexual abuse survivors since the early 1980s, says Nahan’s is one of 70 cases against St. John’s that he and his firm brought during the Child Victims Act window, and one of 74 against the Diocese of St. Cloud. Anderson says Nahan’s case is one of a small number of cases left against St. John’s yet to be resolved. 71 of the cases Anderson brought against the Diocese of St. Cloud are still ongoing. Anderson says settlement talks with St. John’s and the Diocese of St. Cloud have stalled recently, forcing today’s filing. There are only a small number of cases left against St. John’s, and Anderson and his firm thought they were close to resolution of all of them before progress stalled. He says the Diocese and St. John’s have both retreated from commitments they pledged to survivors, and he’s concerned that the continued delays only aggravate survivors’ suffering.
“We are deeply disappointed for the many survivors of St. John’s and the Diocese who have suffered so gravely, and who so desperately need resolution, particularly at this critical time,” Anderson said. “The progress made, and hoped to be made, has turned to defiance by the St. Cloud Bishop and its insurers. The settlements involving St. John’s we had hoped to have fully done last year have now also stalled.”
Anderson said the decision to initiate Nahan’s lawsuit, and many more to come, is out of necessity and not choice. “These courageous survivors who have suffered for decades deserve a prompt measure of justice and resolution,” Anderson says. “We are deeply disappointed we need to initiate this suit over resolution and reconciliation.” He hopes today’s filing will force the Diocese and St. John’s to live up to their word and the pledge they’ve made to help ease the pain survivors have suffered.
The Diocese of St. Cloud Announced They Were Filing Bankruptcy Two Years Ago—Have Yet to Do So
The Diocese of St. Cloud announced publicly in March of 2018 that they were preparing to file bankruptcy. At the time of the announcement, several cases brought on behalf of survivors by Anderson were already moving through the court system, including a case brought on behalf of a man known as Doe 50 who was abused by Fr. James Thoennes in the early 1970s. In the Doe 50 case, Anderson alleged the Diocese had created a public nuisance by not disclosing the names and files of offenders, and convinced a Stearns County Court to force the Diocese to turn over the files of more than 30 known abusive priests. Anderson’s firm received the files under a protective order and still is not allowed to disclose them publicly.
In other situations where a Catholic Diocese has filed bankruptcy to avoid sexual abuse lawsuits, any active suits are stopped immediately and moved into the Bankruptcy Court. The same thing was expected here and the Diocese’s public bankruptcy announcement resulted in the earlier cases, including Doe 50’s, being put on hold indefinitely. Despite the Diocese’s announcement more than two years ago that it would file bankruptcy, it still has yet to do so. Anderson says there are now more than 70 survivors with active cases against the Diocese that continue to be delayed, which he worries will only add further harm.
Fr. Cosmas Dahlheimer Abused Dozens of Young Catholic Children Throughout His Career
Father Dahlheimer, who was ordained in 1936 and died in 2004, was a prolific abuser over the course of his long career as a Catholic priest and monk of St. John’s. In addition to being on both the Diocese of St. Cloud and St. John’s Abbey’s lists of credibly accused, Dahlheimer is also on the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ list of known abusers. Dahlheimer worked at St. Bernard’s Parish in St. Paul for many years in the 1970s where he abused numerous altar boys and students who later brought claims.
Anderson brought his first case on behalf of someone abused by Dahlheimer in 1988. That was back in his early years of exposing the history of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Since then Anderson has represented more than a dozen survivors of abuse by Dahlheimer, and thousands of survivors of abuse by Catholic clergy across the United States. He says great progress has been made in exposure and child protection, but the Diocese of St. Cloud and St. John’s tactics here in Minnesota show there’s still much work to do.
The Diocese of St. Cloud and St. John’s Abbey Continue Business as Usual When it Comes to Sexual Abuse; Continued Delays Hurt Survivors
Anderson says he’s disappointed that after so many years, so many cases, and so much information about clergy abuse being exposed, St. John’s and the Diocese of St. Cloud continue to deflect blame and refuse to stand up and acknowledge those they hurt so badly. “Survivors like Tim Nahan for years have only asked St. John’s and the Diocese of St. Cloud to do the right thing,” Anderson said. “Tim is a hardworking husband, father and Marine Corps veteran who only wants accountability, and to know that St. John’s and the Diocese of St. Cloud understand the severity of the harm he and so many others suffered so they do everything in their power to prevent more kids from being abused.”
Approaching four years since the close of the Child Victims Act window, Anderson says he’s concerned that continued delays are causing further harm to survivors. “We have worked with these survivors for many years to try to get the Diocese to come clean, be accountable, and treat sexual abuse victims with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Anderson says, “but here we are, forced to file this case today because the Diocese and St. John’s continue to hide from their responsibility, deflect blame, and use delay as a way to benefit themselves at the expense of survivors’ well-being.”