Suit: Priest admitted abuse, stayed active
MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota man who claims he was sexually abused by a priest from 1989 through 1992 sued the Twin Cities archdiocese, St. John's Abbey and a center that treats clergy with psychological issues on Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims Francis Hoefgen was at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church in Hastings when he molested the plaintiff, who was 10 to 13 years old at the time. It alleges the defendants should have known Hoefgen was a danger because he admitted to abusing another boy just a few years earlier. It also alleges church officials didn't warn Hoefgen's new parish about the risk.
"This is quite disturbing, quite alarming. But also quite familiar and quite typical," said Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the plaintiff, who's identified in the lawsuit as Doe 27. "All of these entities made conscious choices to conceal, instead of reveal, the truth about the hazard and because of it, countless kids were hurt."
According to a signed police statement provided by Anderson, Hoefgen admitted on March 19, 1984, that he had performed oral sex on a boy on two occasions at St. Boniface rectory in Cold Spring. In the statement, Hoefgen told a Stearns County sheriff's deputy and a Cold Spring police officer that the boy was living with Hoefgen at the time.
Charges weren't filed then. The lawsuit said Hoefgen instead was sent to St. Luke Institute treatment center in Maryland for evaluation, and he lived there for six months, then was returned to active ministry and sent to Hastings.
Messages left with Hoefgen and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis weren't returned. A spokeswoman for St. Luke said the institute hadn't been served with the lawsuit and couldn't respond to it.
A spokesman for St. John's Abbey also said officials hadn't reviewed the lawsuit and couldn't comment. Brother Aelred Senna said by email that Hoefgen left St. John's in 2011 and is no longer a monk or priest.
Anderson said the lawsuit names the archdiocese and the abbey as defendants because at the time of the alleged abuse, Hoefgen was a member of St. John's Abbey, but was on a joint assignment with the archdiocese. Hoefgen became a monk in 1973 and was ordained a priest in 1979, Anderson said.
Anderson said this lawsuit marks the first time he has sued St. Luke Institute for its role in returning abusive priests to ministry.