Charges: Hastings priest sexually abused altar boy for years

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Criminal charges filed against a former priest claim he sexually assaulted an altar boy at his Hastings church over a two year period beginning in 1989.

WCCO reports Francis Hoefgen faces two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison if convicted. Dakota County authorities say the victim was between the ages of 9 and 12 when the abuse occurred and reported it to law enforcement last November.

The Pioneer Press says Hoefgen worked in Hastings from 1985 until 1992 and was with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church during the years the sexual abuse allegedly occurred.

Hoefgen had already been named in a civil lawsuit filed last November. That suit contends that Hoefgen abused a teenaged boy in Cold Spring in 1983 and was subsequently sent to a treatment center for priests accused of sexual misconduct. The suit argues church officials concealed Hoefgen's history of abuse when they sent him to work in Hastings.

The Star Tribune reports Hoefgen, who now lives in Columbia Heights, was released from jail after posting bond at his initial court appearance on the criminal charge Wednesday.

Police Chief Bryan Schafer tells the Hastings Star Gazette the alleged victim is now in his mid 30s and no longer lives in Hastings. The newspaper also quotes Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, who says waiting more than 20 years to report a sex crime is not surprising because victims usually repress abuse.

City Pages reported in March that the priest who succeeded Hoefgen at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1992 subsequently left the Catholic church and is now a consultant to attorneys who handle clergy sex abuse cases.

That former priest, Patrick Wall, joined attorney Jeffrey Anderson this week in announcing a new lawsuit against St. John's Abbey alleging a monk sexually abused two boys in the 1970s.

Hoefgen was defrocked in 2012, the Pioneer Press reports. In December St. John's included his name on a list of 18 current and former monks the Abbey concluded had likely committed sexual abuse of minors.

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