It was reported that St. John’s priest Richard Eckroth, who was retired and living at St. John’s Abbey for years, died this week. It must also be noted that Eckroth had a long history of predatory conduct that shattered the lives and souls of innocent children whose numbers are yet to be known. The number of kids Eckroth abused could exceed 100. What is known is that Eckroth was a serial offender that had been described by at least one Abbot as dangerous. What is also known is that Eckroth was given cover for many of those years by top St. John’s officials.
Our firm currently represents three survivors of abuse by Eckroth and has worked with many others over the past twenty-plus years. What we have learned about this predator is that as a priest, monk, professor and pastor of St. John’s he easily built the trust of parents who readily gave him permission to bring their children to a remote cabin owned and maintained by St. John’s Abbey where he then abused many of them. Eckroth plied children, some as young as eight years old, with alcohol and often employed means of coercion and threats of violence to accomplish his abuse. Over the years we have worked with several of those kids, now adults, who struggle with an aftermath of depression, anxiety, shame and guilt as a result of what Eckroth did to them.
The Child Victims Act now permits those survivors of abuse by Eckroth and others to bring civil actions until May of 2016. The death of Eckroth or any offender does not prevent survivors from asserting claims against those who made the conscious choices to protect the Eckroths and other abusers like him in the past. We applaud the courage of the survivors who have come forward and encourage others to do so knowing that by coming forward they can regain some measure of the power that was taken from them as a child. When a survivor comes forward it can bring hope and help to themselves and to others. Richard Eckroth no doubt left a trail of devastation and broken and shattered lives wherever he went. However, every time one of Eckroth’s survivors and the survivors of others like him, comes forward and shares the secret, they can begin the process of recovery. And survivors can come forward confidentially.
Today we release some of the documents that have been disgorged in other litigation concerning Richard Eckroth’s history. These documents include a 1993 report from St. Luke’s Institute where Eckroth was sent for sexual deviancy and abuse. Other records reflect the knowledge of top officials at St. John’s that regarded Eckroth as a “danger” for years.