Abuse Allegation Centers on Catholic Monks in Minnesota

Image: A lawyer holds up a photo of Father Richard Eckroth.
Lawyer Jeff Anderson holds up a photo of Father Richard William Eckroth at a news conference Monday in St. Paul, Minn.KARE-TV

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A Minnesota monk who was a dorm supervisor at a Catholic university was sued Monday by two men accusing him of having sexually abused them when they were children more than 40 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed in state District Court in Stearns County against Father Richard William Eckroth, 87, as part of a larger legal effort to force the release of more documents detailing what the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis knew about priests' and monks' sexual abuse of young children.

Eckroth was a philosophy professor and dormitory prefect at St. John's University, a Benedictine college, and a monk at St. John's Abbey, both in Collegeville, Minn., when the alleged abuse occurred in a cabin owned by the abbey from 1970 to 1973, according to the suit (PDF), which seeks a jury trial.

Lawyer Jeff Anderson holds up a photo of Father Richard William Eckroth at a news conference Monday in St. Paul, Minn.KARE-TV

Jeff Anderson, the attorney for the two men who are identified in the lawsuit as John Does 33 and 34, called Eckroth "a very serious serial predator" responsible for having abused more than 360 children.

Anderson accused four successive abbots or heads of the abbey of having known about Eckroth's alleged activities but covering them up.

"When it comes to prevention of sexual abuse and when it comes to the protection of kids, I call these abbots the bad abbots," Anderson said at a news conference.

In a statement it released to the St. Cloud Times, the abbey said it would cooperate with the investigation, but it said Eckroth — who has previously denied abusing children — suffers from advanced dementia, complicating efforts to sort out "the truth of allegations against Father Eckroth."

Anderson also released files relating to five other monks accused of abuse who worked in the archdiocese until as recently as 1992.

Details of the accusations against one of the monks — Robert Blumeyer, who worked in two archdiocese parishes before dying in 1983 — were revealed at the news conference Monday by Lloyd Van Vleet, 59, who said he chose to give up his anonymity to help other abuse victims.

Van Vleet said he was abused by Blumeyer when he was about 14.

"It started in 1969 or 1970, when I started going to the rectory and he started showing me pictures and started — you know, from there," Van Vleet said.

"I trusted this man," Van Vleet said. "I feel bad, because I actually sent people to him as a confidant."

For years, men who claimed to have been abused by Minnesota priests and monks were shackled by a statute of limitations that made it difficult for them to file suit years after their alleged victimization.

As allegations against priests gained worldwide attention in recent years, however, the state Legislature last year opened a temporary three-year window for alleged victims to file claims.