Crookston, Minn., May 10, 2017 / 14:12 pm
Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. has rejected a lawsuit’s assertion that he coerced a deacon candidate into renouncing his claim that a priest sexually abused him as a teen.
Ronald Vasek has filed a lawsuit against the bishop and the Diocese of Crookston seeking both unspecified damages exceeding $50,000 and the release of records of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, Reuters reports. Vasek has claimed that the bishop threatened the man’s efforts to become a deacon and his son’s career in the priesthood.
“Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations,” the diocese said, adding that the bishop and other leaders are “deeply saddened and troubled” by the allegations.
Vasek charged that in 1971, at the age of 16, he was molested during a trip to Cincinnati by Msgr. Roger Grundhaus, a priest of the diocese who went on to become vicar general. The trip was for a meeting of canon lawyers, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
He reportedly informed a priest about the abuse in 2009 or 2010, while he was considering becoming a deacon. The lawsuit said the information was passed on to Bishop Hoeppner.
According to the diocese, the allegation of abuse was reported to law enforcement in 2011. Msgr. Grundhaus has been retired since July 2010 and is presently suspended from active ministry.
“The Diocese of Crookston plans to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter,” said the diocese, adding that further comment would be inappropriate until the investigation is completed.
In 2010, Vasek’s son was ordained a priest for the diocese. Vasek entered the diaconate program the next year.