St. Cloud Bishop, Abbey Abbot: We Named all Alleged Abusers The St. Cloud Diocese and St. John’s Abbey have made public all of the names of priests and monks who have credible allegations against them of sexual misconduct with minors, according to the leaders of both institutions.

Abbot John Klassen and Bishop Donald Kettler said Monday that they are confident they know of all allegations made against members of their orders to date and that the names of those credibly accused have been released.

Klassen and Kettler met Monday with the St. Cloud Times Editorial Board, at the invitation of Executive Editor John Bodette, to discuss the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal, their responses to it and their acknowledgment of a need to rebuild trust with parishioners.

“Should there be somebody who has been abused, and we haven’t been notified, please come and tell me,” Kettler said. “I want to know. But I feel confident that … we’ve revealed everything that I know about for anybody that’s likely abused.”

“Likewise, I am very confident, just knowing what I know about the files and our individuals who are doing ministry, I am confident about the safety and integrity of each of those folks in a position with children,” Klassen said. “I’m confident they are safe, based on what’s in those files and based on the kind of ‘field of meetings’ that I’m a part of on a daily basis.”

He also echoed Kettler’s plea for victims to come forward if they have been abused.

Addressing abuse

The two religious leaders met with the editorial board for an hour and discussed the pain that clergy sex abuse has caused, the changes the church has made to address the abuse and their hopes for future reconciliation with parishioners.

Klassen was asked about the fact that no priest or monk has faced criminal charges for the sexual abuse of children. The criminal statute of limitations means that decades-old abuse can’t be prosecuted, he said.

And there haven’t been any substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by an abbey priest or monk for conduct that happened here after 1986, Klassen said.

“This does not diminish, deny, undercut the real pain and suffering that was caused by criminal actions,” Klassen said.

But it shows that the steps that the abbey has taken to protect children are working, he said. He and Kettler discussed the assessments and background checks done on candidates for the priesthood and the training and supervision they get during formation and after ordination.

“So it’s a ‘before, during and all the time’ that we are going to do that,” Kettler said.

Offending monks undergo risk assessments, Klassen said of the abbey. And the fact that those monks haven’t faced criminal charges doesn’t mean life just goes on as normal for them.

“Life stops,” Klassen said. “It stops, the life they knew. … If they were teachers, they’re no longer teaching. What they studied for, it’s done, it’s over. If they were priests, they will never do any ministry of any kind ever again, in any way, shape or form.”

The kind of freedom they knew and the hope they had for their future is done as well, he said. But he understands the sentiment from victims that because offenders aren’t in jail they aren’t seeing any consequences for their behavior.

“Their life stops,” Klassen said. “And we try to put it back together as best as we can and have a place and community where they can live, where they can work productively within the monastic community and make a contribution.”

Forming trust

Both leaders also addressed the future and healing the wounds that exist. Kettler asked for the community’s help in rebuilding trust.

“Taking the time to listen to people, to visit, to guarantee that we’re going to do what we can, and we’re going to keep doing that,” Kettler said. “We’re not going to get to a point five years from now where we’ve done everything we need to do and we’re going to stop.”

The St. John’s Abbey community wants to make sure that it’s responsive in the way that it hears and listens to survivors, Klassen said. He acknowledged the deep pain that abuse causes an entire parish for years.

“For our own monastic community, we’ve been rocked by this, to be very candid, and it’s very easy for us to just (close ranks),” Klassen said. “But John’s is a big, strapping, extroverted community, and it has been, and that’s what we want it to be going forward. So part of our own dynamics is to keep walking and to learn to apologize, to recognize the harm done, not try to deny it, but at the same time to realize how we’ve got to live into a future for ourselves as a monastic community.”