Vatican Prohibits Bishop Hoeppner from Handling Sex Abuse Cases While Under Investigation for Concealing Clergy Abuse Himself

The Decision is an Important Development in the Vatican’s Investigation of the Crookston Bishop

(Crookston, MN) – The Vatican’s decision to prohibit Diocese of Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner from dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse in his diocese while the Vatican investigates him for concealing abuse by priests in his diocese is the correct step.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops recently authorized Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to conduct further investigation related to claims that Bishop Hoeppner engaged in “acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct.” The Congregation specified that while Bishop Hoeppner is being investigated, his faculty to deal with clergy sexual abuse cases involving clerics in his diocese has been transferred from him to Archbishop Hebda.

“It’s an important development to restrict a bishop’s power and ability to handle sex abuse cases when he is under investigation for his own concealment and coercion of a survivor to protect a top official accused of child sexual abuse,” said attorney Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates, who has represented several clients abused by Diocese of Crookston priests.

Anderson’s firm represented survivor Ron Vasek, who was sexually abused as a minor by Msgr. Roger Grundhaus in approximately 1971. Msgr. Grundhaus went on to become a top official in the Diocese of Crookston, including vicar general. Vasek reported the abuse to Bishop Hoeppner but in 2015, Bishop Hoeppner coerced Vasek to sign a letter retracting his statement that he was abused by Msgr. Grundhaus.

As part of settlements that Vasek and several other survivors of child sexual abuse by Diocese of Crookston priests made with the diocese in 2019, secret documents and depositions of Bishop Hoeppner, Msgr. Grundhaus and Vicar General Michael Foltz were released publicly. These documents and depositions show the measures Bishop Hoeppner took to conceal abuse by Msgr. Grundhaus and other priests and to coerce Vasek into retracting his statement. The documents and depositions also show how Bishop Hoeppner made conscious choices to leave sexual offenders in ministry. The depositions and secret documents have been provided to Archbishop Hebda for the investigation into Bishop Hoeppner.

A link to the secret documents and depositions is here.

“We credit Ron Vasek for his courage and commitment to exposing the truth,” Anderson said.