- PAUL -- A northwest Minnesota man hopes a potential release of records for clergy accused of sexually abusing children in the Diocese of Crookston will reveal the truth amid allegations church leaders tried to cover up abuse and coercion.
“For years and years, there has been a secrecy about sex abuse within our diocese,” Ron Vasek said Monday during a news conference in St. Paul. “The truth is what we all need for freedom, and without the courts, the truth would never be revealed.”
Vasek, a Tabor, Minn., man who claims he was sexually abused when he was 16 by Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, filed a lawsuit in May in Polk County District Court against the diocese accusing it and Bishop Michael Hoeppner of coercion and emotional distress. Vasek claimed the bishop forced Vasek to sign an Oct. 21, 2015, letter that would keep him from making such accusations against the church.
Vasek, who attempted to become a deacon, said Hoeppner told him to stay quiet in what Vasek believes was an attempt to blackmail him.
The coercion part of the case against Hoeppner was settled in September after a settlement was reached, but Monday’s conference was held in response to a Friday ruling that rejected a move by the diocese to dismiss the negligence and nuisance case against it. That opens the door for Vasek’s lawyer, Jeff Anderson, to file written demands that could require the diocese to release records on clergy accused of sexually abusing children, the attorney said during the conference.
“It shouldn’t take a judge to make the guys in our diocese to do what’s right,” Vasek said as he stood by his wife and Anderson.
Holding back tears, Vasek said the diocese and its leaders are supposed to protect children, be transparent and serve the community. Instead, he claimed, the church has used the law to hide the truth.
“I’ve talked to a number of survivors, and the thing that tears them up the most is the way they get treated,” he said. “They get re-abused all over again by the people that are supposed to be protecting us.”
Anderson said he will file documents in the coming weeks demanding the release of named clergy accused of abusing children. It’s unknown how many have been victimized, but Anderson said that number could be in the thousands. It’s unclear how many sexaul abusers will be revealed in diocese files, Anderson said.
Vasek said he hopes his case will encourage other victims to come forward, adding the truth needs to be revealed at all costs.
“The truth is what it is, and the consequences of the truth are what they will be,” he said. “If that means that things happen in the diocese that some people don’t like, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Hoeppner has denied he coerced Vasek but said the diocese takes all matters of sexual misconduct seriously. He reiterated those sentiments in a Monday statement, encouraging those who have information regarding sexual abuse to call the the diocese’s victim’s assistance coordinator at (218) 281-7895.
“I continue to pray for all those involved in this matter. No one should ever be subject to inappropriate sexual conduct,” Hoeppner said in a September statement. “I ask all Catholics and people of good will to pray for healing for all those who have suffered abuse.”