Father Joe Richards of Fertile/Mentor admits abuse
In a press conference Tuesday, Jeff Anderson & Associates has called for “immediate” removal of Bishop Michael Hoeppner from the Diocese of Crookston, plus the removal of Bishop Richard Malone from the Diocese of Buffalo, New York as “both have engaged and are engaging in the dangerous practice of deceit, deception and concealment of crimes by predators and crimes in which they have both complicit.” Anderson states that the Vatican has begun investigations of both Bishops and, because of “courageous survivors across the country”, they are demanding the truth be revealed.
As a result of settlements made on behalf of over a dozen survivors, Anderson continued, it was “required and demanded” there be an excavation of documents. Clips from Bishop Hoeppner’s video testimony from late 2018 were also played during Tuesday’s press conference.
Anderson spoke about Fathers Pat Sullivan, Joseph Richards and (Monsignor) Roger Grundhaus, and detailed the accusations against them.
FATHER PAT SULLIVAN
Father Pat Sullivan was reportedly ordained in 1992 and was sent to St. John’s treatment center in 2009 after being accused of sexual abuse and assault by Doe 457, who brought suit against Sullivan. Anderson says, in a report from professionals at the treatment center, it was suggested that Sullivan posed a risk to children and, without boundary education, anyone he interacts with may be “at risk.”
During Bishop Hoeppner’s video testimony about Sullivan, Hoeppner said he remembered reading the report. Anderson asked Hoeppner if remembered reading about the risk and Hoeppner repeated that he read the report.
Anderson stated in the press conference that the video testimony was taken in October 2018 when Sullivan was still in ministry and “nothing about his history had been revealed to the public, police or parishioners.”
When asked about Sullivan’s return to ministry after accusations were first made, Bishop Hoeppner said he didn’t remember if recommendations were followed which, the report allegedly said, could minimize risk with supervision of psychotherapy, monthly spiritual direction or follow-ups to develop emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Bishop Hoeppner then laughed at Anderson in the video testimony when Anderson went on a short tirade about allowing Father Sullivan to “stay out there.” Anderson said during the testimony that it was “making him sick.”
Anderson also asked Bishop Hoeppner if the police were informed of “exhibits 9 or 16” against Father Sullivan to which Hoeppner said not to his knowledge.
In February 2019, Father Pat Sullivan was placed on leave because a report was made to the Bishop about “boundary issues” which was “the same thing from the report during psychotherapy,” Anderson added.
FATHER JOSEPH RICHARDS
Father Joseph “Joe” Richards, who currently practices ministry at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fertile and St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Mentor, was reportedly ordained in 1990 into the Diocese of Crookston and, according to Anderson, in the 1990s, admitted to the Vicar General to have sexually abused a five-year-old when he was 15 years old. In 1993, Richards was reportedly on a leave of absence from the Diocese and received treatment and evaluation in St. Louis, Missouri.
In that treatment and summary history, Anderson said, the report stated that Richards felt he “had a problem with sexual compulsivity.” The report also allegedly stated that Richards felt his “masturbation” and “need for pornography” would become “out of control” whenever he would “go out of town.”
The report said that Richards began to have fantasies about abusing a child and felt an “attraction” towards children which is why he voluntarily sought help.
“His fantasies regarding children are disturbing and should be treated as a cry for help,” the therapy report said, according to Anderson.
“What did the Bishop do?” Anderson asked rhetorically. “Returned him to ministry.”
In the video testimony, Bishop Hoeppner said he had never read the report on Richards before. When asked if the Bishop would reexamine Richards status in ministry after reading the report, the Bishop said “not at this time” during the video testimony.
Anderson said he was “alarmed” and that “we are disturbed that this priest remains in ministry in the Diocese,” adding that Richards is a direct consultant to the Bishop.
MONSIGNOR ROGER GRUNDHAUS
Survivor Ronald Vasek came forward to the public again Tuesday against Father Roger Grundhaus saying he was abused by Grundhaus as a teenager in the 1970s when he accompanied Grundhaus to Ohio. Vasek said in the press conference Tuesday that Grundhaus was close with his family while he was growing up, especially after the death of his brother.
Vasek tearfully recalled how the abuse took a toll on his life which led to alcohol abuse and almost losing his marriage.
In 2011, when Vasek was hoping to become a Deacon, Vasek disclosed the abuse by Grundhaus to Bishop Hoeppner. The next year, Anderson stated Tuesday, Bishop Hoeppner represented to the Archdiocese in St. Paul that Grundhaus was fit for ministry despite having received a direct report from Vasek.
Vasek later sued the Diocese alleging the Bishop blackmailed him into retracting his allegations and the suit was settled in 2017.
In the video testimony, Bishop Hoeppner said Vasek asked him for complete confidentiality and that Vasek didn’t want to bring forward an accusation. Hoeppner said he respected Vasek’s confidentiality when grilled by Anderson during the testimony.
Anderson told Hoeppner that he used that confidentiality to “protect” Grundhaus and the Diocese to avoid a scandal, and added that it was “the same thing with Sullivan.” The Diocese’s attorney objected during that part of the testimony saying Hoeppner didn’t have to answer.
At the press conference, Anderson said that, in 2015, he received a court order that required the Bishop to disclose the files and names of all priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse and stated that Bishop Hoeppner violated said court order, did not turn over the file of Grundhaus and others, and, as a result, Ron Vasek came forward and brought suit against the Bishop for coercion and nondisclosure of information and concealment.
Anderson said a contempt hearing was scheduled to hold Bishop Hoeppner in contempt when they (the Diocese) agreed to release the depositions and documents therefore cancelling the contempt hearing.
Also standing next to Vasek and Anderson at the press conference was another survivor who, in 1992, brought suit against the Diocese of Crookston alleging abuse by Father James Porter, who Anderson called a “serial predator.”
DIOCESE NOVEMBER 5 STATEMENT
“In August, Bishop Hoeppner shared some of the non-economic protocols of the settlement that was reached between the Diocese of Crookston and claimants represented by Jeff Anderson and Associates. In addition to making available for public release the names of all clergy who have worked in the Diocese of Crookston at any time who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse or possession of child pornography, the diocese also agreed to make available for review and publication by plaintiff’s counsel all documents on Fathers Roger Grundhaus, Patrick Sullivan and Joseph Richards.
Also, in a good faith effort, the Diocese of Crookston agreed to obtain a signed written statement from each and every clergy person working in the diocese – bishop, priest or deacon – acknowledging the following: they have received a copy of the Diocese of Crookston Code of Conduct; they understand their responsibility as a mandatory reporter; they have never abused a minor; and they have no knowledge of child sexual abuse by a priest, deacon or employee within the diocese that has not been already reported to law enforcement and the Diocese of Crookston. These actions are an expression of our continuing effort to the Church and world that we are committed to providing a safe environment for all.
In September, it was announced that the Congregation for Bishops authorized Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, to commence a preliminary investigation into an allegation he received that Bishop Hoeppner violated a portion of Article 1 of Pope Francis’s recent motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi which deals with “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil investigations or canonical investigations, whether administrative or penal, against a cleric or a religious” regarding clerical sexual misconduct. Bishop Hoeppner has fully cooperated with the preliminary investigation, supplying the materials that were sought. We await a response and remain hopeful that justice will prevail for all impacted by this action.”