Victims say St. John's Abbey released documents containing personal information

- It’s called the “Minnesota Transparency Initiative.” This month, in the interest of transparency, Saint John’s Abbey released thousands of pages of documents tied to monks “credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors” decades ago. However, some of the victims tell Fox 9 the release went too far — exposing private information about survivors.

Names of survivors were not released, and were redacted. However, one survivor, Louise (last name withheld), pointed Fox 9 to information she believes is personal and identifying that was posted online. Another survivor pointed to a deposition posted online. 

In Louise’s case, documents included copies of e-mails sent from a psychologist to the head of the Abbey detailing information about Louise’s family, medication, and health diagnoses. 

Louise said she was outraged not only because personal information was posted, but also because she believed the information was confidential. A letter sent from the head of the Abbey, Abbot John Klassen, offered victims the use of a free outside counseling service that was “confidential, and independent of Saint John’s.” But Louise says comments she shared during the counseling sessions were e-mailed to Klassen, and posted online. The documents have since been removed, but Fox 9 was able to verify the posting of e-mails from a psychologist.

“I took them at their word, and I feel that I was lied to. And they try to use the weapon of shame against me, and I refuse to be shamed,” said Louise.

Louise and another survivor believe the personal information was posted online to intimidate survivors. However, the Abbey, in a statement to Fox 9, said: “Saint John’s Abbey, working with its attorneys, tried very hard to make redactions sufficient to protect the identity of survivors. If any identifiers have been overlooked, it is unintentional and we welcome the reporting of any specific pages that raise concerns or call for further review. At the same time, we have reviewed pages that were objected to without finding any identifying information. Nevertheless, in some cases we removed the documents in question anyway. Our goal was always to go beyond what had been asked of us and to provide full information about the monks who have been identified in order to assist survivors. We will continue to examine the documents to make sure we accomplish this goal without compromising the privacy of others.”

Asked about the information shared by the psychologist, and posted online, the Abbey spokesperson replied that the organization “will not comment on specific documents or references.”

Louise has filed a police report with the Stearns County Sheriff.

“The harm is that it’s a strategic move, it looks like to me, to threaten survivors, and [the Abbot] does it hypocritically in the name transparency,” Louise told Fox 9.

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