Minnesota bishop accused of coercion in clergy abuse case

Lawsuit accuses Crookston bishop of threatening alleged abuse victim and failing to report abuse. 

Patty Vasek looked on as her husband Ron Vasek said he was abused by Msgr. Roger Grundhaus at 16 and how 46 years later, as Ron studied to become a deacon, Bishop Hoeppner threatened to prevent him from becoming a deacon

Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner threatened to retaliate against a man who told him that a former top official in the Crookston diocese had sexually molested him as a child, according to a lawsuit filed in Polk County district court.

It marks the first time in the nation that a U.S. bishop has been individually sued for coercion in a clergy abuse lawsuit, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who is holding a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed by Ronald Vasek, also claims that the bishop failed to release the sex abuse allegation against the now-retired Monsignor Roger Grundhaus as required by a 2015 court order.

“The coercion and concealment in real-time demonstrates the crisis continues, ” said Anderson.

More than 500 claims of sex abuse by Minnesota clergy have been made in the past four years, most through a three-year law that allowed older civil cases to be filed. Catholic leaders across the state have said that the abuse scandal is in the past, and that reforms have been made.

The lawsuit, however, claims that Vasek met with Hoeppner in 2010 and reported that Grundhaus has engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with him in about 1971. Vasek was 16 at the time, and had been invited to accompany Grundhaus on a trip to Ohio for a meeting of canon lawyers, the complaint says.

Bishop Hoeppner

Vasek also reportedly asked the bishop how the allegation would affect his involvement in the diocese’s church deacon program. The bishop told him it wouldn’t be a problem, the complaint says, as long as he didn’t tell anyone else.

Grundhaus’ abuse report apparently was put in the diocese’s then-confidential abuse files.

In 2014, those files were supposed to be made public as part of a court order from a different clergy abuse case. In October of 2015, Vasek claims that the bishop summoned him to his private residence.

The bishop asked Vasek to sign a diocese-written letter retracting the abuse allegation, according to the complaint, because “Msgr. Grundhaus was unable to minister in the other diocese because they had plaintiff’s report of abuse in their files.”

The letter was authored by Msgr. Michael Foltz, the Crookston diocese vicar general, the lawsuit says. Vasek said he was threatened with retaliation if he didn’t sign it.

According to the complaint: “The bishop indicated to the plaintiff that if he should refuse to sign the letter, the bishop would have difficulty ordaining plaintiff as a deacon … and that plaintiff’s son’s priesthood in the Diocese of Crookston would be negatively impacted.”

Since 2014, Crookston has released the names of six priests who were credibly accused of sexually molesting minors. Grundhaus is not on that list. The diocese also is as a defendant in the lawsuit.

At the news conference, Vasek and his son will speak publicly for the first time about the incident.

The Crookston Diocese said it is “deeply saddened and troubled” by the allegations, and plans to “conduct a thorough investigation into this matter.”

“Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations regarding Mons. Grundhaus,’’ the diocese said in a written statement.

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Kansas City Archdiocese Cuts Ties With Girl Scouts

File under:  Crusty old men making silly decisions for girls.


The Archdiocese of Kansas City severed its relationship with Girl Scouts USA in more than 20 Kansas counties, opting to align itself with a faith-based group that it says better represents the Catholic lifestyle.

The archdiocese announced this week that after 100 years of partnering with the Girl Scouts, it will instead align itself with American Heritage Girls, whose mission is “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

nice outfit!

Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement that Girl Scouts USA promotes “programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture” and is “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.”

The Archdiocese of Kansas City’s main issues with Girl Scouts has to do with the group’s alleged ties to Planned Parenthood and their promotion of role models such as feminists Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, who “not only do not reflect our Catholic worldview but stand in stark opposition to what we believe,” Naumann said.

Kansas City Deacon Dana Nearmyer said the archdiocese has no malice against Girl Scouts but would rather promote Jesus Christ instead of being edgy.

“They have worked hard on being culturally relevant,” he said of the Girl Scouts.

“They are secular and we are sacred,” Nearmyer said, adding that the archdiocese hopes many troop leaders will also make the transition to American Heritage Girls, also called AHG.

Although its announcement made immediate waves, the Kansas City Archdiocese said it will give the 21 counties and 106 parishes in its jurisdiction seven years to make the transition.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson made the same decision last year, urging priests in his parishes to severe their ties with Girl Scouts and switch their loyalty to AHG.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to join the Archdiocese of Kansas City and to help more girls figure out what girlhood is all about,” AHG Executive Director and Founder Patti Garibay said.

Garibay founded the Christ-centered organization 22 years ago. The group’s membership has doubled since archdioceses have announced support for AHG, and more than 17,000 volunteers are ready and anxious to handle the expansion.

Those not excited about the Kansas City Archdiocese’s announcement include Barb Dorris, managing director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

“They’ve taken action with the Girl Scouts but let a criminal run the whole diocese, it’s out of balance,” she said in reference to former Kansas City Diocese Bishop Robert Finn, who was found guilty in 2012 of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Dorris, a former Catholic school teacher, says she became involved with SNAP after she caught a priest molesting a child in 1991.

“We have 25,000 members worldwide and we’re growing. The good news is they found us, the bad news is there are always more victims,” Dorris said.

Deacon Nearmyer acknowledged the irony but promised that the archdiocese strives to be as transparent as possible.

“We understand all of the hurt that’s out there and we’re dreadfully ashamed and sorry for the sins of the past,” he said, adding that any and all sexual deviance is reported to the proper authorities.

In his statement released Monday, Archbishop Naumann said the decision to cut ties with Girl Scouts was not an easy one. He also thanked the group.

“I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well,” he said. “We look forward to having as many of them as are willing join us in leadership roles as we take this new step into the formation of our girls. I will always be grateful for their exceptional service.”

Naumann also said, “Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”

Girl Scouts fired back in a statement of its own, saying it “established a positive relationship with the highest leadership of the Catholic Church to benefit and support Catholic Girl Scouts throughout the country.”

“Unfortunately, some have chosen to perpetuate misinformation that the Catholic Church leadership has acknowledged to be false,” the group said. “Girl Scouts is always willing to work with any and every person or organization in order to fulfill our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”


Rebel Catholic group defies church, ordains woman priest in NC

Abigail Eltzroth was ordained Sunday in Asheville by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

An international group defiantly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests Sunday ordained its first woman Catholic priest in the 46 counties that make up the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.

The ordination ceremony for Abigail Eltzroth happened in Asheville at Jubilee! – a nondenominational faith community – with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan presiding.

Eltzroth, 64, said she is the second woman in North Carolina ordained by the rebel group, called the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.

“It’s time for a change and we’re in the forefront, leading the charge,” Eltzroth told the Observer on Sunday. “We expect that eventually everybody is going to follow us.”

Eltzroth said, she now plans to to start a Catholic worship community in the Asheville area.

But reached for comment Sunday, David Hains, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, said: “I hope that Catholics in the diocese will understand that it would be sinful to receive a fake sacrament from a woman priest and that includes attending a fake Mass.”

According to a news release about the Sunday ordination from the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, 250 women in 10 countries have been ordained as Catholic priests. In the United States, it said, women priests serve in 65 “inclusive churches.” That includes women priests affiliated with the association and with a second allied group – Roman Catholic Women Priests – that has the same mission.

Several major Protestant denominations have women clergy, including the Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Methodists and Presbyterians. And most American Catholics say they’d like their church to ordain women, too. A Pew Research Poll in 2015 found that about six in 10 American Catholics said they favored allowing women to be Catholic priests.

But the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has stood by its longtime prohibition against women becoming priests.

Not only that. In 2007, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the blessing of then-Pope Benedict XVI, decreed automatic excommunication against anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order.”

Excommunication means the person cannot receive the sacraments or participate in the liturgy unless he or she repents.

Citing Jesus

Pope Francis, who has proven to be more liberal than Pope Benedict on some issues, briefly raised hopes among Catholic reformers when he established a commission to study whether women could be ordained as deacons. Catholic deacons cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions, but they do perform some priestly functions, including marrying couples, baptizing babies and others and giving homilies, or sermons, during Mass.

But, when asked last year about the prospect of female priests in the next few decades, Pope Francis said the church’s teaching banning women priests was likely to last forever.

He said Pope John Paul II had the “last word” on the issue – a reference to a 1994 apostolic letter that said ordaining women was not possible because Jesus chose only men to be his 12 apostles.

But Bridget Mary Meehan, a Florida-based bishop with the Association of Roman Catholic Priests, pointed to Mary Magdalene, also a major disciple of Jesus in the Gospels.

“The risen Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene, not to (apostle) Peter, and called on her to announce the good news of Christianity – the resurrection being the central message of Christianity,” Meehan said. “Mary Magdalene was the apostle to the apostles.”

The association also claims that their ordained women priests are true priests because a male Roman Catholic bishop, acting as a spiritual descendent of those first apostles, ordained their first women bishops.

On its web site, the group says that “we stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit who calls all people to discipleship. The movement began with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002. Today there are (250) women priests and 10 bishops worldwide.”

Catholic convert

Eltzroth, the woman who was ordained Sunday, grew up Presbyterian but became a Catholic in her 50s. “It’s the most ancient tradition,” she said of Catholicism. “It’s the tradition that we all look to. Everybody looks to what the pope and the Catholic leaders are doing.”

Her resume includes several pastoral jobs: jail chaplain in Saginaw, Mich.; pastoral associate on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana; and pastor to two churches in the sand hills of Nebraska.

Eltzroth, who is divorced, is the mother of two grown children.

She said she sent an invitation to her ordination to Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. She received no response.

Asked about Pope Francis, Eltzroth said, “He’s a great leader. I’m very pleased with his stands on social justice. I hope the same social justice will be brought not only to the civil world but to the the religious (Catholic) world, too.”

As for the threat of excommunication, Eltzroth said: “I’m sure that I will be (excommunicated) if I haven’t been already. But there are plenty of saints who have been excommunicated. So that’s not going to stop us.”

Complete Article HERE!