Accused Of Sexual Abuse: The Monks Living Next Door

By Esme Murphy, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Earlier this month, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville mailed letters to thousands of St. John’s Prep School alumni saying over a period of more than 40 years, 17 monks had “credible allegations of sexual abuse brought against them.”

Four of the monks have died, 10 remain at the Abbey with restrictions imposed on their activities.

But three of the monks accused of sexually abusing children and young adults  live here in the Twin Cities.

The outward serenity of St. John’s University and the adjoining St. John’s prep college has harbored scandal.

“The subculture of secrecy and sexuality has run so deep and so long that it may be among the worse that I have ever encountered,” Attorney Jeff Anderson said.

Anderson’s lawsuits forced the Abbey into releasing the names of the accused monks.

Brother John Kelly was seen at his St. Michael home, just down the street from an elementary school.

Esme Murphy: “The college has put out a list, has put your name on a list, saying there are credible allegations of sexual abuse against you. What do you have to say about that?”

Brother Kelly: “I have nothing.”

Murphy: “Is it true?”

Kelly: “I have nothing to say.”

Murphy: “Did you abuse young boys there?”

Kelly: “I have nothing to say … Well, I guess maybe you don’t understand the Christian religion.”

Murphy: “I do understand the Christian religion and it’s about forgiveness. Do you feel you deserve forgiveness?”

Kelly: “I appreciate your program and everything you do, but I just can’t say anything.”

Later, Anderson watched the interview with Brother Kelly.

“When I watched that, it made me feel a little sick and actually pretty scared,” he said. “Scared because he is in the community.”

Kelly is still a monk, but is on leave from the Abbey.

Another monk named in the letter, who is also on leave from the Abbey, is Fran Hoefgen. He lives in a townhouse in Columbia Heights.

Hoefgen ran from WCCO-TV cameras, as they tried to interview him outside his job at the Washburn-McReavey funeral chapel.

“Fran Hoefgen is really disturbing,” Anderson said. “He molested several youth while in parishes while being assigned out of the Abbey.”

Half a block from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, WCCO-TV caught up with Stephen Lilly.

Murphy: “Your name was on that list.”

Lilly: “It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

Lilly left the Abbey in the 1990s after being accused in a lawsuit of molesting a St. John’s University student. The Abbey said Hoefgen and Kelly must decide soon whether they will return to St. John’s and the monastic life.

St. John’s released this statement today:

“St. John’s University is committed to educational excellence and an experience that is safe and respectful for all students. The Abbey’s safety plans are designed to provide a safe environment for all who live, study and work at St. John’s. Monks on safety plans are barred from student residences and other campus spaces that could lead to contact with students in non-public areas.”

More from Esme Murphy
  • Mike

    The “journalism” exhibited by ‘CCO is almost as despicable as the child abusers.

    Sandbagging people at home & work hoping to get some sensational film for the 6 o’clock news is just disgusting. Go report some news instead of trying to create it.

    • SJU Student

      I completely agree! Only interviewing Jeff Anderson in a dignified way is definitely going to create the one-sided story that makes for “good TV.”

      Why wasn’t there an attempt to show conversations in context while speaking with Brother Kelly?

      Why wasn’t there anything to be said from the Abbey itself?

      There is so much more explaining to do, and it the job of the journalist to show truth, not to create sensationalism instead of truth and respect.

      • Tom Willard

        You get 2nd place in the TWIT OF THE DAY award.

    • Michael

      This is not sensationalism, the public has a right to hear the story. Attempting to shut down the process does not help the Catholic church. The defenders should be ashamed of your leadership and yourself. You are a disgusting and revolting example of hypocrisy. You have abused the design of your institution for power and control, and now are trying to stop the examination of your sick and enabled abusers. The public is not on your side and you are not to be trusted. I hope God forgives you for your sins, and that you will wake up from the spell the devil has put over you.

      • Mom of Two

        I agree. I live up the hill (literally, I look down and there’s his home) from him…with a 2-year old and a 6-year old. NOTHING makes me more disturbed than the THOUGHT of someone near my kids that could hurt them. I believe that those around someone like this has the right to know who they live around.

    • Bob Guimond

      They are only reporting on what is happening up at St John’s. The Abbey has been covering up these things for years, but you think its not right to call them on it,
      What about their victims. Would you say that was sandbagging them?

    • Tom Willard

      You compare asking stupid questions to scarring a child for life? You sir get the TWIT OF THE DAY award.

    • Aaron

      Comparing questionable journalism to child abuse is incredibly ignorant. You can question the practices all you want, but to draw a parallel between that and sexual abuse is asinine.

      Also, if my children went to school near these men, I would consider this a pretty important piece of news, sensational or otherwise.

    • Bob Guimond Grandpa

      Here is another twist on St John’s and whats happening up there

      Follow the link below

  • Mel

    Why are these men not in jail!!

    • senior 1943

      Sure glad I left the catholic church and now belong to a good bible church.

      • Godless

        I’m glad that I’m an atheist and don’t support any organized crime…errr, I mean religion…

      • markH

        Is there such thing as a “good bible church.”? Have you read the Bible? Apparently, it is considered moral and praiseworthy to have your son tortured and executed to expiate the “sins” of future generations from imagined crimes (come on, Adam and Eve in a garden with a talking snake?) that they could not possibly have had any part in? Add to this sinister nonsense being inculcated into the minds of innocent children that they are born “sinful”, “unworthy” or otherwise “defective” and need the protection and salvation of a man-god in order to inherit immortality? Not only is this NOT moral, it is positively IMMORAL and destructive to humanity. Peace.

        • Mom of Two

          I am not sure this needs to go off on the tangent of religion and its corrupt ways…though I do agree with many of your lines of thinking.

          This is about men…or more specifically, a man, that was accused of horribly awful things, and then chose to reside in a home not more than ONE MILE from an Elementary School and a Middle School.

          I live directly above him (up the hill) and don’t feel that this is a man that has God in his life. He chose the wrong place to live…period.

          • darryl

            not a level three offender, was in the news years ago. For safety check with your local police about level three offenders who live near you!

          • father of 3

            ok. you are being overly paranoid. he can live where ever because frankly the was no evidence of him actually “abusing” anybody. if anything he abuse his term of agreement. if you read his case he had sex with a guy who was 18 years old 1 month from graduating. not saying it was right, but you act as though he murdered somebody and is likely to murder you and your kids. you should move if you arent comfortable. maybe look up who is living by you.

    • Amanda

      Cause they are not gay, so there fore they are protected… oh but it is the gay people the ones that are perverts….

  • Victim Du Jour

    Do they even have physical evidence of a crime? Or is it corporate run media harassing religion for political reasons?

    • urdumb

      Ya thats what this is about.

      • victim du jour

        And then WCCO wants everyone to Be an anti-bully activist.

    • Kevin

      There has been a lot of abuse world wide so I doubt that these are totally false allegations. They certainly should be investigated and innocence presumed, but it would be a bit premature to just accuse the media of persecution in this case, although scrutinizing the media is always appropriate. Celabacy is not called for in the bible and the fact that the only church that insists on celebacy is having this trouble isn’t just a coincedence. Men are men and all have the need for intimacy and no job description can change that. I feel for these guys as I think they just go crazy after a while from the want of intimacy.

      • Kevin

        P.S. Please don’t read that my sympathy is any excuse for their actions if they are guilty.

      • victim Du Jour

        Public School Teachers are 100 times more likely to engage sex abuse than a Priest. Public Schools have always been worse than the Catholic Church.

        Today there is a story about a Gay Marraige Senate hearing, so the timing of this story makes sense now.

        DFLers accusing Priests of being child molesters is like joseph Stalin calling Che Gueverra a mass murderer.

      • markH

        Kevin-Please stop trying to draw connections between pedophilia and celibacy. I know several unmarried men who do not seek out children for sexual gratification, so this is a red herring designed to excuse immoral and illegal actions on the part of grown men (who make the enormous claim that they know the mind and will of their god) who should know better. Besides, even if we assume that celibate clergy need to act on their base sexual impulses, why do they not seek out women for their gratifications? I’ll tell you why; because children are much easier to coerce and manipulate (read: indoctrinate without questioning authority) than adult females. Don’t try to excuse the inexcusable. Peace.

  • Brian

    OH MY GOD. Are you kidding me? Two different things. Clearly you’re not from around there otherwise you wouldn’t say such an insensitive thing.

    • Too Close

      Check out a map and you will be surprised how close St. Joe is from their

  • YoungDesigner

    I am absolutely disgusted after watching both the clip and reading the article. First, as many commenters have posted already, there is just one sided opinion to this article – is this even really news? While I understand part of journalism is to “seek the truth,” but this shows a poor approach to that idea. WCCO has represented the community poorly by posting this information to the website. Mr. Anderson is a very strong opinion. The other issue with this was the “ambush” journalism that you clearly created. You sensationalized everything by showing pictures of the guys unprepared and showing pictures of grade schools.

    WCCO, you owe many people an apology for this type of news – it’s not news. I’m a college student studying journalism and I can, for one, tell you this would not go over very well (and I’m sure you’re seeing that now). Above all, you owe the St. John’s Abbey an apology for fully attacking them. You had no second opinions outside of Mr. Anderson’s and the only person you had doing anything was the woman with the net ready to capture people. I am ashamed and shocked – furthermore upset at this level of journalism.

  • CSB-SJU Student

    I’m not saying these men are guilty or innocent, but I have to agree with SJU Student, Katy, and YoungDesigner. This story is a one-sided opinion and shouldn’t even be considered news: without an opinion from the Abbey, your story has no argument, and without an argument, no point can be made. Instead, we viewers were presented with a biased ATTACK on the Abbey. I am disgusted at how this reporter felt that it was ‘okay’ to ambush these men with questions in an attempt to get a ‘story’, if this can even be called a story. If a person has ‘nothing to say,’ leave it be. This level of unprofessional behavior CANNOT be tolerated.

    Apologies need to be made to these men and to St. John’s Abbey, soon.

    If you at WCCO even read these comments, I hope you learn something from this.

    I think it’s time that journalism grew up.

    • bob guimond

      walk in the shoes of the people that have been abused then restate your comment

      • father of 3

        dude, john kelly’s “victim” was a 20 college student. kelly just broke policy, not law. just because they did something bad is no excuse for terrible journalism. think and do the research before you write a statement like that.

        • Gennifer Lost

          BINGO !!!!

  • Annette

    Now we know why CCO is DEAD LAST in the news ratings!

  • LVN

    WCCO owed an apology to every readers..Such poor journalist approach!

  • Observer

    It looks to me like WCCO gave these men every opportunity to tell their side of the story and they refused.

  • Bryson Powers

    I have nothing against Catholics but their church is creepy.

    • Chris

      Please save comments like that for another day… maybe your last day! Thanks.

  • Michael

    Katy-I am sure you have always had trouble dealing with self examination too. Isn’t that the reason you stay engaged with a fallen religious institution?

    • darryl

      this was in the news years ago with a full story. Was a relational thing with an older high school student not a level three offender, so he will not be jumping out of the bushes. Not defending him but if you want to be safe contact your local polic for the level three offenders who live near you and be surprised.

  • Darryl

    Many of the incidents that happened at St. John’s were in the context of relational situations with adults. Sure there were some abuse of minors but not all the men credibly accused had to do with children. Very one sided.

    And if WCCO were really concerend with children they would look into the 80% of child abuse that happens right in each family. It is sad but true….

  • Vicki Stenson

    Why aren’t they in jail with charges pressed against them. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse.

    • John Pederson

      They aren’t in jail because we apply Minnesota law to everyone, even Catholic clergy. Studies show that up to 1 in 4 young people are sexually abused. Do the math, and consider how many abusers there really are, and how few of them are Catholic clergy. Do you really want to put that much of the population in jail? Or is it just Catholic clergy you want in jail?

  • sarah

    shows all the sick monks.

    • YoungDesigner

      This website cannot be seen as completely credible. Where are the sources? As a wise professor told me, the only place where facts can be given are from the Abbey website and not someone who tells one side of the story.

      • Katie

        The men listed by the ABBEY are listed on the website. I would say it is pretty credible. I assume you are dismissing victims accusations then? Most of them reach out to this website when the Abbey doesn’t sufficiently deal with the issue.
        I am an alumna of CSB/SJU. I love CSB/SJU, I don’t love how they have dealth with and covered this up. It embarrases me and my husband, an alumi of CSB/SJU.

        • father of 3

          most of the allegations against them are for breaking school policy, not law. so no its not credible resources.

  • LEL

    Hurrah for the monks for admitting it happened and releasing the names of the offenders and shame on the archbishop for hiding those who did it in the parishes, If the church ever colapses it will be because of people like him.

  • Bravo

    Brilliant journalism! Maybe CCO should submit this for a journalism excellence award.

    • Bob Schwiderski

      I agree totally with Bravo! This excellent investigative report supports efforts to eliminate the “Primary Social Sickness in the USA” — childhood sexual abuse.

      Bob Schwiderski,
      Minnesota SNAP Director
      (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) or 952-471-3422

  • Valerie

    They are not being PICKED ON- they are “accused” of molesting CHILDREN & young adults. YOUNG CHILDREN. The monks are entitled to a fair trial, but if I was accused to such a thing & someone was interviewing ME I sure would say very loud & often I did not do such a thing. Pretty sure these guys are guilty-not ONE said it’s not true.

    • bel

      Excellent point.

    • John Pederson

      Young children? What is your source for that? The story speaks of college and high school students. Still wrong – but not young children. The facts still apply, whether we like the class of accused people or not.

  • Bel

    I live and have lived in Collegeville all my life. These monks NEED to be confronted and asked questions. Why should their victims be left with the burden of shame while their abusers live a life free from shame? The Abbot has already put their names forth and they should be made to answer for their behavior.

  • Phil Mcrackin

    In my own opinion religion is a mental illness and I do not care what anybody thinks of my opinion, many will agree and many will not. Just because these freaks believe in some invisible man in the sky we hold them to a higher standard, WHY?

    • believer

      Your disgusting. I am glad I won’t see you in paradise.

      • Bel

        Aren’t you supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin? What type of callous answer is that? You won’t see anyone in paradise with behavior like that. Did you mean ‘You’re and not your’ right? God like people who can spell and be kind to others. Judge not!

      • Mom of Two

        Why is this person disgusting? I am a Christian and don’t agree with his thoughts, but how are you holding up to your faith by terming him “disgusting?” Because he thinks we are ill? That’s ok. And you can think he is also…but you could word it with a bit more class.

        Faith believers are often viewed as described above…and when you act out like this…you don’t paint a very pretty picture of us.

        • believer

          My apologies. You are absolutely correct. I will repent. Let me re-word that. It is disgusting what this person said. But I am sure this person was expecting this kind of reaction, which I should not have given him the time of day.

  • John Pederson

    What’s the story here? That these guys committed horrible acts 25 or 30 years ago but (as far as we know from public reporting) have not done so ever since? Or that the statute of limitations, being the law of the land, applies to them EVEN though they’re Catholic clergy? You mean we don’t use a different standard in the case of monks, and we don’t put them in jail though our law doesn’t allow for it? Or is the story here that hundreds and hundreds of abusers (parents, school teachers, coaches, etc.) are living within our society… but three of them are monks? Or is the the story just that we should switch to KARE-11?

  • Valerie

    3rd paragraph talks about 3 of the monks accused of sexually abusing children & young adults

  • Frank McLoren

    Funny how this story aired on Apr 28…the first day of the Nielsen ratings sweeps:

  • Karl

    Nothing new here. I guess ‘CCO needs to get their ratings up. Time to watch KARE11 for the ‘real’ news. Bye, bye, WCCO!

  • tj nothankyou

    I am a former student at St John’s and what the reporters did was justified and correct. For ages (Centuries) the Catholic Church has been an unofficial haven for pedophiles. There is evidence that within the church there was a secret society of pedophiles. Also did you not read the article, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville mailed letters to thousands of St. John’s Prep School alumni saying over a period of more than 40 years, 17 monks had “credible allegations of sexual abuse brought against them. Those alumni were ALL under the age of 18 with some as young as 14. My question is why are you not outraged? Those monks deserve to be shown on TV and in print for what they truly are. They are not men of god and have never been. They have been protected, shielded and assisted by the Catholic Church. That is a FACT. Mr. Anderson is one of the only crusaders working to bring out in the open the abuses of the church.
    Unless you are one of the former children who were abused, keep your mouth shut. You have no idea of what you are talking about. The church is, was and continues to be a pedophile organization who’s main purpose is to protect and shield child abusers.

    • Cindy J.

      And Mr Anderson is getting filthy rich from it…how much money do you think he is making compared to the average victim compensation? Then ask…who is he really crusading for? What a story that would be, huh?

      • tj nothankyou

        Yes I am sure he is getting rich, however he also does alot of pro-bono work. And thats what you wanted to focus on?? Cindy what if it was your child that was abused by the church, Hmmmm then what would you be saying?

      • Mom of Two

        So that is the primary concern? That someone could be getting rich from this case? Really? My concern will be about my two kids that live up the hill (literally…I can see in his windows) from this man…this man of “God”…that has potentially done horrific things to other children.

        Let someone get rich off of this…I don’t care. As long as it means that I am aware of a potential threat to my kids…keeping them from getting HURT.

        I cannot believe our society can’t see the need for a story like this…and that we have people more concerned about other’s wealth than the primary safety of our youth. Awesome.

  • Valerie

    tj – you’re exactly right. It might help others who think that because there are pedophiles in their church they can’t believe in the message anymore. That’s not true. What better place is there for Satan to invade & try to destroy than the church. Any church. Unfortunately MEN decided to cover up this horrible crime for many years now, but the pedophile will get his punishment- hopefully in this world – but it not now then definitely in the next.

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