COURTESY OF JEFF ANDERSON • Casimir Plakut (top), Augustine Strub (middle), and James Kelly (bottom).

By Sierra Lammi
[email protected]

Three former monks of the St. John’s Abbey have been added to the list of priests who likely sexually abused children. The three monks in question are now all deceased and all three left the St. John’s Abbey decades ago.

This incident of priests sexually abusing children has occurred before both here at the St. John’s Abbey and elsewhere around the world. So far, the Abbey has settled 17 cases of sexual abuse. Attorney Jeff Anderson has represented most of the victims of abuse and has worked with the Abbey to come to a “just settlement” for all parties involved.

“The recent settlement with the St. John’s Abbey is an important step, not just with reconciliation, but in terms of serving public interest and safety,” Anderson said over the phone. “Since [the Abbey] has disclosed names and files never before seen, the safety of the public has been served and there is a joint commitment to transparency. This is a giant step in the right direction.”

In response to the addition of these three names to the list of sexual abusers, the St. John’s Abbey released a statement to the public.

“St. John’s Abbey, in keeping with its policies and practices, intends to make public documents related to these individuals at a future date,” the statement said. “However, those documents must first be redacted to remove the names and other identifying details to protect innocent parties mentioned in the documents.”

Most of these cases are slow to process because the incident of sexual abuse in question took place many years ago and some parties involved in these cases are now deceased, so it can often be difficult to reach a settlement. However, Anderson and many others have been working tirelessly for years to both
promote transparency and security for all parties involved.

“The communities need to know that real progress is being made and that work is being done for transparency and resolution.” Anderson said.

Spokesperson for the Abbey, Br. Aeldred Senna, does not think that the adding of these three names will disrupt the CSB/SJU community.

“They are not new charges,” Senna said via email. “The addition of these names stems from St. John’s Abbey’s External Review Board’s normal review of old documents after allegations of sexual abuse have been made. Since all three of the former monks named left Saint John’s 40 to 50-plus years ago, it is unlikely that this will have any significant impact on the current CSB/SJU community.”

There are 21 total current and former monks of the St. John’s Abbey that are on the list of likely sexual abusers; 13 of them are deceased and two have
permanently left the order. This leaves six monks on the list who are alive and still in the order under a safety plan contracted by the Abbey and Project Pathfinder, an organization that assesses an offender’s “risk of re-offending.”

The official website for the St. John’s Abbey specifies that those safety plans are created individually for each person and consist of “professional counseling, supervision and regular meetings with a supervisor.” These plans are reviewed each year.

According to Anderson, it is “of high importance” that these files, documents and names do become public to prevent these abuses from taking place again.

“This work is being done with the hopes of promoting transparency and some
resolution for victims,” Anderson said.