Congregation for Bishops in Rome says archbishop in St. Paul will instead be involved in cases of abuse

    The Congregation for Bishops in Rome recently specified that during the investigation of Crookston Diocese Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner, the faculty to deal with cases of sexual abuse against clerics of the Diocese of Crookston has been transferred from Bishop Hoeppner to Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

    In an official statement released by the Diocese of Crookston Tuesday, it was announced that the Archbishop was authorized by the Congregation to conduct further investigation related to claims that Bishop Hoeppner had engaged in “acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct” as prescribed by the motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi.

    Judge Timothy O’Malley, Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, will serve as the Archbishop’s Delegate for the investigation.

    Jeff Anderson & Associates PA said, in their own statement Tuesday, that prohibiting Bishop 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.”

    “It’s an important development to restrict a bishop’s power and ability to handle sexual 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, who has represented several clients abused by Diocese of Crookston priests.

    Anderson’s firm recently represented Ron Vasek who accused Msgr. Roger Grundhaus of sexual abuse in approximately 1971. Vasek said he reported the abuse to Bishop Hoeppner in 2015, but 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 Folt were released publicly,” explained the Anderson & Associates statement. “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.”

    Anderson said he credits Ron Vasek for his “courage and commitment to exposing the truth.”