Diocese issues statement after Tuesday press conference
In response to the coercion lawsuit filed by Ronald Vasek saying Crookston Diocese Bishop Michael Hoeppner coerced him into signing a document denying sexual abuse by Father Roger Grundhaus, the Diocese says Hoeppner denies that he in any way "forced, coerced or encouraged" Vasek not to pursue allegations against Grundhaus.
Vasek said in a Tuesday press conference in St. Paul with Jeff Anderson and Associates that he was sexually abused when he was 16 years old in 1971 while on a trip to Ohio with Father Grundhaus. Vasek says that Bishop Hoeppner was informed in 2010 and that Hoeppner allegedly told him to not tell anyone about the abuse, and, later, in 2015, had him sign a document stating that the abuse never happened.
Tuesday afternoon, after the press conference, the Diocese of Crookston issued this statement:
“Bishop Hoeppner and other diocesan leaders are deeply saddened and troubled about the allegations made today by Ron Vasek.
The Diocese of Crookston takes all allegations of sexual abuse very seriously. Mr. Vasek’s allegation of sexual abuse dates to 1971 and involves Msgr. Roger Grundhaus. Msgr. Grundhaus has been retired since July 1, 2010 and is currently suspended from active ministry.
Mr. Vasek has also alleged that Bishop Hoeppner coerced him into signing a document against his will and to not pursue the reporting of the allegations against Msgr. Grundhaus. Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek to not pursue his allegations regarding Msgr. Grundhaus. Mr. Vasek’s allegations of abuse regarding Msgr. Grundhaus were reported to law enforcement in 2011.
The Diocese of Crookston plans to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter. It would not be appropriate to comment further until that investigation has been completed.
The Diocese of Crookston is committed to the protection of children and the safe environment of our schools, parishes and communities. The Diocese of Crookston encourages anyone, with information regarding the abuse of exploitation of children or young people to immediately report that information to law enforcement or the Diocese of Crookston Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, Louann McGlynn at 218-281-7895. The Diocese of Crookston has fully adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, as promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Hoeppner asks that all those involved be kept in prayer during this difficult time.”
TUESDAY PRESS CONFERENCE IN ST. PAUL
At a news conference Tuesday in St. Paul, attorney Jeff Anderson, a child abuse survivor, and a Diocese of Crookston priest, Rev. Robert Schreiner, who practices at St. Joseph’s Church in Red Lake Falls, announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the survivor, Ronald Vasek, naming Bishop Hoeppner and the Diocese of Crookston as defendants.
This is the first time in the United States a bishop has been individually sued for coercion.
"I signed that letter to protect my son," admitted Vasek emotionally during the press conference after discussing the document Bishop Hoeppner allegedly coerced him into signing retracting the report of abuse by Father Grundhaus. "I left and felt that I had been abused all over again."
According to the complaint, Bishop Hoeppner allegedly indicated that he would keep the letter in his vault “in case he ever needed it.”
"I knew how evil and mad the Bishop could be if he wanted to be," Vasek added during the conference. "I was about to be ordained as a Deacon in a church I love and still love. I'm a man about truth. For whatever reason I've carried this burden."
"There might be a lot of other people out there like me," he continued. "When this sex abuse stuff came out, some of it has been cleaned up but many hasn't."
The complaint says that due to Bishop Hoeppner’s threats to Vasek’s participation and success in the diaconate program and to his son’s priesthood and his coercion in obtaining Vasek’s signature on the letter retracting the report of abuse, Vasek was prevented from reporting the incident of abuse by Msgr. Grundhaus to civil authorities and from obtaining legal counsel prior to May 25, 2016 in order to file a timely civil claim under the Minnesota Child Victims Act.
A separate criminal report has been filed with local law enforcement against Bishop Hoeppner and it is currently undetermined if criminal charges will arise.
A representative of the Jeff Anderson and Associates PA office, Mike Finnegan, told the Times Tuesday that it is “highly unlikely” that Father Grundhaus will be charged criminally as an individual because of statutes from the 1970s.
"This is the first time Grundhaus' name has been revealed," said Jeff Anderson during Tuesday's press conference. "There's a probability that others are suffering in silence."
"Grundhaus has continued to be in 'good standing' with the Diocese and practiced as recently as this Easter," he added.