St. John’s Abbey Settles 17 More Sex Abuse Cases, Three Never Before Disclosed Names Added to its List of Abusers
Newly Identified Abusers, Fr. Strub, Fr. Kelly and Fr. Plakut Worked Throughout Minnesota
“This is real progress,” says Attorney Jeff Anderson
(St. Paul, MN) – On Monday, St. John’s Abbey added three more names to a growing list of its priests and monks who have sexually abused children. St. John’s acknowledged that monks Fr. Casimir Plakut, Fr. Augustine Strub and Fr. James Kelly sexually abused children while they worked at parishes throughout Minnesota. The addition of Plakut, Strub and Kelly to St. Johns’ list of offenders brings the number of monks on the Abbey’s list to 21. Abuse survivor advocates Jeff Anderson & Associates announced the additions today and say that in recent months St. John’s has settled 17 more sex abuse cases that they brought on behalf of survivors.
The Three Offenders Worked Throughout Minnesota – Names Never Before Publicly Disclosed
Plakut, Strub and Kelly all left St. John’s in the 1960s or 1970s and have since died. During their time as monks from the 1940s to the 1970s each worked in Minnesota including at parishes in Stillwater, Duluth, Wayzata, Callaway, Detroit Lakes, Mahnomen and Cloquet. Plakut and Strub also both served at the St. Anne’s Missions, a group of parishes serving Native American communities in and around Naytahwaush, Minn., in the Diocese of Crookston. After leaving St. John’s, Strub and Kelly left the priesthood. However, Plakut went on to serve in various assignments in Nebraska and Texas under an assumed name, Father Francis J. Michael, until his death in 1988.
“Getting these names out into the public and getting St. John’s to acknowledge a history never before revealed publicly is so important to protecting kids in the future, and to the validation and healing of survivors,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse since the 1980s. “Many of the brave people I’ve been able to work with over the decades tell me that seeing the person who abused them identified publicly gives them comfort that they are not alone, a feeling that they are believed, and a sense of validation that helps them start to heal from the harm they began to suffer when they were still kids.”
Disclosures Are Result of Lawsuits and Child Victims Act
The disclosures come after a Stearns County judge earlier this year ordered St. John’s to turn over the files of every St. John’s monk accused of abuse. The order was issued in the Doe 33 & 34 lawsuit that was brought in 2014 by Jeff Anderson & Associates on behalf of two brothers who were sexually abused by Fr. Richard Eckroth, a St. John’s monk, when they were children in the 1970s. The men were able to bring their claim because of Minnesota’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which was enacted in 2016 and provided survivors of sexual abuse a three-year window to bring civil claims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations. The Doe 33 & 34 suit against St. John’s settled just days before it was set to go to trial.
17 New Cases Settled, Progress Made But There Is More Work To Do
Since 2013 Jeff Anderson & Associates has brought lawsuits on behalf of nearly 80 survivors of sexual abuse by St. John’s monks, nearly 20 of which have been resolved. Anderson credits the survivors and St. John’s for their efforts in settling these cases and negotiating more transparency. He also notes that since the CVA was enacted St. John’s has worked to meet several of the survivors’ demands that the Abbey become more transparent about abusers, Anderson said, including making its list public.
“But it’s important to remember that without survivors coming forward and sharing their truth none of the progress we are starting to see would be possible,” Anderson said.
Anderson and St. John’s say they expect more names to be added to the public list of offenders in the months to come. They also plan to make the files of the offending monks public in the future after they have been able to comb through them to remove sensitive information about potential victims and other parties. Anderson said given the thousands of pages involved that the work is time-consuming and can take months.
“What these settlements represent is some significant progress we’ve been able to achieve working with St. John’s towards resolution for wounded survivors, and public disclosure of real dangers,” Anderson said.