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St. John's Abbey releases files on 18 monks accused of abusing children

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St. John's Abbey has released thousands of pages of files on 18 monks "credibly" accused of sexually abusing children.

The Catholic Benedictine community, located on a 2,700 acre campus in Collegeville that includes St. John's University and St. John's Prepatory School, published the files on a website called MN Transparency Initiative.

It did this with consent of the surviving monks in the "hope disclosure will help survivors" of the abuse, though MPR notes the release was part of a lawsuit settlement with a St. Cloud man abused by a monk while a 14-year-old prep school student in 1977.

Of the 18 accused, nine of them have died and two have left the abbey and live as laymen.

The remaining seven, however, are still on campus grounds where they live "under safety plans that limit and supervise their actions."

The abbey also said, in a way that does not "minimize the actions of the monks or the harm caused survivors," there have been no incidents of sexual abuse of minors at the hands of a St. John's monk in more than two decades.

"St. John's is a safe and nurturing environment," it says on the website.

The website lists the monks down the left hand side of the page, and includes files containing thousands of pages detailing abuse allegations that span almost a century.

You can take a look at all the files here.

Files a historical record of the monks, abuse accusations

The files contain a huge amount of information, including personal correspondence, work assignments, psychological evaluations, obituaries following their death and details of the accusations made against them.

As an example of the sort of details contained in the files, we've taken a look at one regarding Father Permin Wendt, who served in the Twin Cities for 40 years before his death in 1982.

His file shows correspondence with abbots dating from when he started at the seminary in 1921, to the end of his life in the early 1980s. Some of the letters see abbots express concern about his drinking problem. In one of Wendt's responses, he admitted he sometimes overindulged in alcohol, which made him "immoderate and unpriestly."

The lawsuit brought against the Order of St. Benedict in 2011 saw one victim – who was 15 at the time – say an intoxicated Wendt sexually molested him and took pictures of him in the bathtub of a motel in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, in 1962 or 1963.

"The files share heartbreaking and tragic details of suffering inflicted on survivors of misconduct," Abbott John Klassen said, in a statement to KSTP.

Since the allegations first came to light, the abbey said it has implemented safeguards designed to stop and prevent abuse, including an enhanced screening of men hoping to enter the monastery, as well as hiring independent investigators to probe claims of abuse.

"In addition, St. John’s has cooperated fully with investigations and processes of law enforcement," the abbey says.

Abbot Klassan is urging anyone who may have been abused by a St. John's monk to come forward.

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