Dialogue 15
A Status Report on Sex and Celibacy 2011

Collegeville, Minnesota has a proud and productive history of more than 150 years. Its story has been told in books and held in the hearts of hundreds of men and women served by this Benedictine community of monks [1]. At one time it was the largest Benedictine community in the world with 360 members; currently it is the monastic base for 140 monks. It is known around the world for its pastoral and creative projects.

I went to Collegeville in 1946 as a prep school student and was a member of the community until 1970. Abbot Baldwin sent me for education in the mental health conflicts of priests and religious. We remained friends until his death. I have had continuing association with St. John’s Abbey and taught in their seminary.

In 1993 one of the superiors invited me to consult about the problem of monks that had sexually abused boys from a local parish, in the Abbey Prep School and a college dormitory [2]. Some of the behavior became public. It was more of a PR plea than I realized at the time.

I had some experience with clergy sexual abuse. I met Jeanne Miller, Esq. the founder of—VOCAL (later LINKUP)—a group that advocated for victims of clergy abuse. She agreed to come to Collegeville with some of her staff to help explore its problems and provide possible interventions. In October 1992 her group had organized the first national conference of clergy victims. With the help of her group, St. John’s sponsored the second national conference for victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests during the summer of 1994.

Already in 1987-1988 superiors of St. John’s knew there was a problem of monks acting out sexually. Jerome Theisen, abbot, Deitrich Reinhart, president of the college, and psychologist Patrick Carnes were exploring ways to educate St John’s and the broader community about sexuality and abuse. Timothy Kelly replaced Jerome Theisen as abbot in 1990 and in 1994 he, Reinhart, and Carnes who assembled a remarkable board of experts, spearheaded a project to further those goals. They christened the group the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute (ISTI). The board elected me to a two-year term as chair. Father Roman Paur, a monk, served as executive director.

The experiences of my two years as board chair were disillusioning. The venture fell apart because it proved to be part of a cover up rather than a solution. I sadly say the finest people on the board resign once they saw what was really going on at the abbey. They got the picture and Abbot Timothy Kelly’s reactions to reports of abuse.

[3] Some of that experience and its aftermath are recorded in the previously posted exchanges with Collegeville. [4]

During the second national conference for victims of abuse held on the Collegeville campus the summer of 1994 I said: "Any time a group of child abusers is discovered in a diocese or religious order one can be certain that someone in authority has allowed it either because of his own sexual activity—either current or in the past." (That activity need not be child abuse.) At the time I was unaware of how true and important that observation was to understand the systemic dynamic of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. My dedication to the health of St. John’s continues. This is the current phase:

On November 25, 2010 I received the first of several E-mails from a man in New York who claimed Timothy Kelly who was an assistant pastor of St. Anselm’s church in the South Bronx (1968-72) abused him and several other boys in the confessional. After a series of E-mails and telephone interviews it was clear to me that this reporter was a credible victim of abuse and witness to the abuse of other boys. He was in contact with classmates who were also abused, but like so many victims, he was afraid to come directly forward; he feared all of the unknown repercussions of confronting a powerful church institution and even the possibility of the loss of his job.

I agreed to transmit his allegation to the superior of St. John’s Abbey and did so on December 15, 2010. His original E-mail [1.] and my report to St. John’s [2.] are copied below. No response to the complaint ever came. On June 7th, 2011 a lawyer for the victim filed a suit against the abbey in Federal Court. Since that date I have received some calls from North Carolina about Kelly’s administration of Belmont Abbey (1989 -92).


[1] From the alleged victim, Nov. 25, 2010

"I would like to talk with you about Father Timothy Kelly and how he was a sexual abuser at St Anselem’s Church when I was a teenager in the 60’s. I happened to search Goggle tonight for his name and sex abuse and found out he died this past Oct. Then I read your story about Ned and became angry knowing what I knew about him; I was (very active in youth activities) when he was there and taking advantage of me and my friends. Now I wish I had searched sooner because I could have helped you. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx." Italics mine



Abbot John Klassen, O.S.B.
St. John’s Abbey
31802 County Road 159
Collegeville, Minnesota, 56321
December 15, 2010

Dear Abbot John:

Last month two of my brothers, John and Mike, who are 12-year alumni of the Prep

School & College drove with me to Collegeville. We attended the community Mass. That brought back the most pleasant memories, experiences and blessings of my many years as a student-monk-priest (and teacher/consultant) of the Abbey. Father Don T extended wonderful hospitality to a visit with my classmate Fr. Don L. The hospitality was familiar and blessed—what so many visitors to the abbey experience. I have known so many good men at St. John’s and treasure them and the beautiful and even heroic work they have done.

Their inspiration remains.

Over the years some monks have also shared their struggles. Serving as Personnel Director of the abbey from 1967 to 70 gave me a profound respect for the hard work, difficulties and stresses monks had to cope with—and how generous and well they did—how they grew and matured through difficulties.

That impression remains.

A more difficult time evolved for me when I was asked to help the abbey deal with allegations of sexual abuse by monks that were raised and made public in the early 1990s. I did not know most of the alleged abusers, but was enthusiastic about what I thought was going to be a major effort by the abbey to combat clergy abuse. In 1994 we convoked a national meeting for survivors at Collegeville that brought a great deal of good publicity to the abbey. I wrote several enthusiastic articles for national papers about the positive efforts the abbey was making to combat clergy abuse.

Disillusionment followed when one obstacle after another to transparency and real reform persisted, proliferated and intensified when I served as Chair of the Board of ISTI. Between 1994 and 1996 I came regularly to Collegeville. During that time lay people and young monks came to me with reports about sex between monks in the monastery and assaults on students. I reported all accounts to Abbot Timothy, as I told each person I would. This imposed a heavy and unwanted burden.

A number of monks who had left the abbey sought me out in Baltimore to tell me they left the community precisely because they had experienced pressure to have sex.

Sealed financial settlement sessions for additional monks’ victims—mostly former college students that even included one of my nephews—and further revelations of hidden abusers were huge burdens to my hope that the abbey had really changed.

I had already learned of Abbot John Es’ sexual activities soon after I left the community in 1970. And just on December 6 another former monk called me to report that Abbot John E abused him under the same circumstances as others—in the confessional. This man has never reported his abuse before. Of course John’s behavior was solicitation.

Disillusionment is compounded and persists.

An additional unwanted burden was recently thrust at me: namely allegations that Timothy Kelly was sexual with some young men when he was stationed at St. Anselm’s in New York during the 1960s. This hits me especially hard. I visited St. Anselm’s in 1955 and 1957 as a guest. As Personnel Director I made two visitations to the parish (and to St. Benedict’s). If my memory serves me correctly, Terence C. was pastor, Frs. Howard Oaks, Charles Pilon, and Agustine were among the assistants, Fr. Tom Thole was a student in residence. I persuaded Fr. Virgil to serve there and he came with Br. Gregory.

Many knew about Fr. Agustine’s abuse of altar boys at St. Anselm’s, mostly in his room behind the church. I did not know about his activity then.

The first former parishioner of St. Anselm’s who contacted me on November 25 said that he found out about Timothy’s death doing a Google search for him. He asserts that he is among a group of (between 4 and 12) men who had similar sexual experiences with Timothy when they were teenagers. Factors within this group prompted the search for Timothy and triggered this victim to come forward. Some of these men are professionals.

One of Timothy’s alleged victims wanted any report I made to the abbey to say that he read the story about "Ned" and Tom Andert and how Timothy "stone walled the truth." He said that account made him "extremely angry" because Timothy "was the keeper of secrets because he had his own." (his words in italic)

These victims’ accounts are very credible: the details of the place and circumstances ring true. The modus operandi sounds eerily reminiscent of Abbot John’s—namely rationalizing sexual activity as "teaching" during confession. Timothy had the boys pull down their pants, expose how they masturbated, and at least by one account he fondled the boy’s genitals.

I do not know where these current allegations will lead. Last night the alleged victim(s) reviewed this letter and approved it. I will make every effort to offer help to those victims who need support. I felt that you deserved a heads up so that you can do due diligence on your part in a matter that could have painful consequences for so many good people.

This note comes with my deepest respect and love for the abbey and its work. My work has been my cross to carry as I follow Christ.

P.S. Several years ago it became clear that the sexual problems at St. John’s are systemic and have been generated from the top down. The problems of the abbey are not unique or isolated. Letters of Dr. Francis Braceland written to bishops in the 1950s indicate the anatomy of this wide spread problem. Many seminarians were referred to The Institute For Living because of homosexual activity. He said if the men were ordained, there would be a tendency to pass sexual behaviors on, often to minors. He attributed the problem to the permissiveness of confessors.

The problems associated with sex among celibates also result from a lack of education for celibacy. I will continue trying to solve this failure.

Experience over the years is convincing and unequivocal: the transmissions of clergy sexual behaviors do indeed proceed within the system and from the top down: not only from confessors’ permissiveness (failing to recognize the psychic dynamics and personality deficits), but also from affective and sexual involvement within the community by elders, many times within the confessional and counseling setting.

Facing the problems of clergy abuse does not obviate compassion or forgiveness. But efforts to change the destructive dynamics that generate, hide, and ignore sexual activity among clergy and its consequences require systemic recalculation (yes, reform). Men who have been credibly accused or convicted of abuse should not be promoted. The contrary pattern is pervasive in the Church from Rome on down. For example abbots John E was elected to head the American Cassinese congregation after his sexual activities were known, and Dennis Q similarly was elected to head the Swiss American Congregation.

Signed Richard Sipe


[3] The following excerpt is edited only to respect the anonymity requested by the author—one of the 40 plus members who served on the ISTI Board.

"...During the years I was...involved with the ISTI board and the St. John’s monastic community, I was aware that St. John’s had a history of misbehaving monks, but was never given more information than that...Timothy and Roman went out of their way to imply (and at times directly state) that the problem at St. John’s was long since over, and that our job on the board was to offer help to other communities of faith, since St. John’s had learned so much about the issues.  At one board meeting... Abbot Timothy reacted in great anger when a board member suggested that abuse at St. John’s might not be a thing of the past:  "We have trained our community, I know of no current cases, and I really don’t know what else we could possibly do."  From reading your website, [Behind the Pine Curtin] I now realize that this was very close to the time that Richard Sipe brought Timothy evidence about inappropriate behavior on the part of the monk who, I understand, is currently the prior at St. John’s. In other words, Timothy’s anger was defensive, not righteous, and his claim about "no current cases" was denial, not fact.

... I came to realize over my years on the board that the monastic community was not interested in dealing with the real issues at the heart of the crisis: gender, power, sexual orientation, sexuality and spirituality.  I observed that many monks have a wonderful talent for speaking wise and deep and brave words and somehow managing to avoid living out the implications of what they say...my suggestions for directions that ISTI needed to take were more and more dismissed and ignored, I trusted my intuition, which told me the community at St. John’s was not as willing to deal with their own history or to protect the vulnerable as they strove so hard to appear.  

I also, sadly, realized that Abbot Timothy’s spiritual advice was more about protecting the power of those in authority than in any way encouraging spiritual growth.

I am revisiting these issues now because I recently learned of Abbot Timothy’s death.  I found that this news brought up some strong unresolved feelings, and in searching for information, I found [Behind the Pine Curtin].  What a relief to have the information that was kept secret all those years finally printed in one place! I never would have found out how accurate my intuitions were without the concrete evidence published on your website.  

In some ways, it comes as no surprise to realize that Timothy and Roman not only deceived by implication, but outright lied on occasion. On the other hand, I am still shocked at the depth of their willingness to deceive, and at how good they have been at exploiting people of good will. I see now that while I was working very hard to help them wake up to the work that they needed to do, they were working even harder to find ways to allow the monastic community to stay asleep. I see now that there was never true remorse, because there was no true willingness to own their history. Which means that, as I see it, there has been no true apology, no sincere amends..."


[4]  This letter was written September 30, 2007 to Lee Hanley, a public relations person at St. John’s and an old friend. I had received numerous complaints about my alma mater from around the country. I wanted it to get to the current Abbot who had appeared to be dedicated to improving monastic behavior by setting up an External Review Board to work with the monastery to help young people be safe. I hoped it might stave off some problems. It did not. This and the following article is a personal dialogue.

Dear Lee:

You know that St. John's (or Collegeville) was my home since 1946, when I was 12 years old. It is for me, family. I have never lost my devotion and care for the reality that is St. John's. The college as it is today is not really part of my heart. It has changed and become so big, new, and wonderful according to the fond tradition of Fr. Mathew, Casper, Walter, Arno, Steve Humphry, Frawley and so many more that the "now" outstrips what I can keep up with. But I hold on to the old SJU of 1946—with the barns, the orchard, the pig farm, laundry, the blue goose, and the workmen. I say that without in any way putting down today. You can excuse an old man's nostalgia. I know that the SJU "spirit" continues and I know it will grow and prosper. 

It is the Abbey that concerns me. I was a member for 18 years. These were my brothers and I continued an active association with parts of the institution until January 1996 when I taught my last course in the seminary. In 1992 I was asked to help with the part of problem of sex abuse that had become public. Abbot Jerome had put my name on a list that Bro Dietrich was assembling to work with Dr. Pat Carnes to look at the abuse allegations that bubbled up in the local press. Both of these men had deep concern for the problem of abuse of minors from their own experiences. I did not know about the abuse of students (criminal activity) and did not know most of the monk abusers who were named in the early 90s. I had known since 1970 that John Eidenschink had been sexually active with some of the monks and continued to do so after he became Abbot. Novice Master Cosmas Dahlheimer, I was told, used to kiss young monks on the lips, liked to suck on their ear lobes and played with their chest and belly hair. But I did not know before that time that he had abused children when he went to a parish assignment. (Later when I interviewed some of Cosmas’ victims they described that exact behavior. Fr. Richard Eckroth was the assistant to Cosmas in the novitiate. I have interviewed enough of his alleged victims to be convinced of their veracity.) I also knew that these facts and many more were kept secret by authorities at St. John's. The inner life of the monastery was not the open concern of Abbot Timothy or Bro. Dietrich when they sponsored a group of experts to come to the campus to consult. Publicity and image were naturally a key concern for the institution(s) in the early 90s. 

Abbot Jerome had talked to me frankly about the inner-institutional problems in 1987 and 88. His concern was the homosexual activity of some monks. Some of them espoused the theory that it was all right, and even beneficial, for monks to experiment sexually together—mutual masturbation and even anal intercourse were touted to further their necessary education and maturity. Jerome was certainly not homophobic and said that he judged that 40 percent of the community had a homosexual orientation. (This is low average for religious communities in the United States.) A number of the young candidates left the monastery after either being approached or initiated into this education.

We know that Michael Blecker, former Dean of the seminary and President of the College was actively homosexual and died of AIDS related causes. There was some talk about his inappropriate behavior at St. John’s, but I have no validation that any took place there with minors.

The last time I was on the campus was three years ago, during the summer. I strolled the campus without any particular goal except to see the new additions and renew pleasant old memories. My path crossed with six monks. Five of them where men who had been alleged sexual abusers and I knew they were on “restriction.” Two were accompanying groups that I presumed were visitors. Two were around the Guest master’s office located in the vestibule of the old church. The other was just crossing campus. None spoke with me. A victim of abuse had reported to me that one of the priests giving tours had propositioned him several months before in the campus Pub. So much for a program of supervision and restriction. The one monk who spoke to me is an old friend sweating on a work gang taking out an old concrete walkway. Ora et Labora: an authentic expression of old St. John’s.

Consider the remedy that the patron of church reform, Peter Damian, prescribed with what is happening at St. John’s Abbey:

A cleric or monk who seduces youths or young boys or is found kissing or in any other impure situations is to be publicly flogged and lose his tonsure. When his hair has been shorn, his face is to be foully besmeared with spit and he is to be bound in iron chains. For six months he will languish in prison-like confinement and on three days of each week shall fast on barley bread in the evening. After this he will spend another six months under the custodial care of a spiritual elder, remaining in a segregated cell, giving himself to manual work and prayer, subject to vigils and prayers. He may go for walks but always under the custodial care of two spiritual brethren, and he shall never again associate with youths in private conversation nor in counseling them.

That may be crude and old, but it did address the seriousness with which the monks took this kind of behavior and the kind of lasting harm it inflicted on the victims and the monastery, too. Certainly the majority of monks in Collegeville are good men, moral and sound in the tradition many of us admire and want to hold on to. But St. John’s has failed to follow through on a reform of sexual behaviors of its monks.

The appointment of Thomas Andert as Prior is an unwise move for the monastery and in the long run for the college too. He has a record of abusing at least one of his students when he was Headmaster of the Prep School. This is not secret, in spite of the fact that he has not yet been the object of litigation. This is not a question of forgiveness or whether or not he is a good man. Is he apt to be prior in both senses of the word—suited to the job, and/or likely to repeat something? It is the reality that sooner or later the headlines will proclaim: ST. JOHN’S APPOINTS SEX ABUSER SECOND IN COMMAND. And I guarantee you this is a distinct danger. The Abbey cannot blithely ignore the list of leaders of the community that have violated celibacy, some even in criminal ways.

I’m sending this letter to you because you will have to deal with the public fall out. I am not a member of the community and I cannot advise them in spite of my unfailing care for them as my family. I do trust that you will share this with Abbot John K at least.

Best, Dick Sipe ’50; ’55; ’59


This article was completed on November 4, 2007. The former SJP student noted in this essay has vetted it along with the families involved. I quote them directly from their most recent statements and have reviewed my notes from the time of the first reports. This is an example of how complicated and long lasting are the effects of betrayal by the trusted. A sad aspect is the divided loyalties that gnaw at the hearts of good people. Secrecy feeds the fear, embarrassment and guilt for inappropriate clergy behavior. Catholic tradition records for centuries the problem of clerics who betray their trust and misuse their position of power. (Cf. Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes) Are there institutions of integrity and accountability to fight the problem from within?

On October 23, 2007 a priest spokesman for St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota issued, in part, the following statement to the St. Cloud Times:

In 1994 third-party concerns were expressed about the friendship of Father Tom Andert, OSB, with a student. The concerns led to an intensive internal investigation. As part of the investigation the student was invited to the Abbey and, in an interview with Abbot Timothy Kelly, OSB, he categorically denied that any sexual misconduct had occurred. The investigation revealed no credible charges of sexual abuse.

That is not at all the whole story that has occasioned abuse victims’ uproar after the Abbot John Klassen appointed Andert as a representative on the External Review Board overseeing misbehavior of monks and also Prior of the Abbey, that is, second-in-command of the institution celebrating its 150th anniversary of founding this year. The Abbot and lawyers created the External Review Board in 2002 as a protective mechanism to assure adequate oversight of behavior. It was a condition to an agreement when a raft of abuse cases were settled.

What I have to say about this particular brouhaha at St. John’s Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota and the priests in this controversy is from my personal experience. That experience began in 1994 and continues to this day—with the young man I will call Ned, his parents, the family he lived with after the events, Abbot Kelly, and as background, with four monastic superiors who have been acknowledged being actively inappropriate with people inside and outside the abbey community. It is the story of some men who profess to be celibate and present themselves and each other to be emotionally and sexually safe. But they are not safe. In fact, many are dangerous, especially to the welfare of the young and the vulnerable.

      There simply was no “intensive internal investigation.” Interrogation of a frightened teenager is not investigation. I received the following from a principle who was on the scene in 1994: “How can you have an investigation without anyone talking to us? We know that what we heard from (Ned) was clearly inappropriate behavior between a Headmaster and a student; Andert’s actions were abusive. If they can’t see that and act appropriately the Abbey has a big problem, and needs some outside help.”

My name is Richard Sipe. I served as the personnel director of St. John’s Abbey from 1968-1970. I was also the elected Chair of the Board of the St. John’s University Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute from 1994 to 1996. I have been a consultant or expert witness in several hundred cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy including cases in Boston and Los Angeles; and I have appeared as a trial witness in five states. I served as an advisor to the Attorney General’s office of the State of Massachusetts and the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia in preparation of grand jury investigations of sexual abuse of minors in their respective jurisdictions.

I have spoken to all the principles in this case, save Abbot Kelly, in the days of October 23 to 29, 2007 and reviewed my records. This is more than the story of one adolescent boy and his headmaster. It is the story of a miasmic institution—a story that concerns a holy place that maintains a whiff of a noxious atmosphere and has not yet found the way to rid itself of pollution.

Ned insisted last week that his story is not one of gayness, and he is absolutely correct. The story is one of betrayal of celibacy and power.

While I chaired ISTI a mother of two former Prep School students came to me with concerns over the behavior of Headmaster Fr. Thomas Andert. A Prep School student, Ned, was living with her family in St. Cloud for a semester of his senior year while his parents were located in another state.

The young man had made a suicidal gesture during his junior year as a boarder at St. John’s and spent several days in St. Cloud hospital for observation and psychiatric therapy. It was during this time that Fr. Andert first paid more attention to him, than was appropriate according to Ned’s recollection and his father’s latter estimation. Only later was Ned able to talk about the incidents; the housemother remembered Ned saying that Andert told him, “your problem is you are gay, but can’t accept it.” Much later when Ned was able to tell his father about the whole relationship he quoted Andert, “When are you going to be ready to tell me you’re gay?”

After his return to school the headmaster paid a great deal of attention to Ned for the rest of the semester. Andert took him to the Twin Cities and treated him to dinner and wine at an expensive restaurant (Ruth Chris) and cruised two gay bars with him. (According to one account given closer the time of the incident, his housemother recalled that Ned said they briefly entered one bar). The priest reassured Ned that it is “OK to be gay” and that he (Andert) was gay. At times Andert gave Ned liquor (scotch) in his private quarters, wrote him letters (that I have read) that affirmed his love. Were there affectionate touches—neck rubs, back rubs, hands on thighs? Yes. More? That is Ned’s story alone to tell.

Ned’s parents were oblivious of any improper dimension to the relationship and were grateful to Andert for the attention he gave their son during his trying semester. In gratitude they invited Andert to take a trip with them. In one hotel the parents shared a room and their son shared a room with Andert down the hall. According to the father’s account: about one or two o’clock in the morning Ned “was beating furiously on the door” and burst into their room. They, not knowing anything about any sexual tension or conflict, tried to convince the boy to return to his room with the priest. The father told me that the boy refused to go back to the room and “cried uncontrollably” in his arms for several hours; Ned spent the rest of the night with his parents. Ned admits to some kind of trigger—or “vibe,” in Ned’s terms—for his panic reaction. The day following this incident Andert, Ned, and his father went white water rafting. Ned’s father was embarrassed by Ned’s “rudeness” to Andert and took him aside and scolded him for his behavior, still completely oblivious to the sinister dimensions to the relationship with his son.

During the first semester of his senior year his housemother, also unaware of any trouble at school, noticed Ned became distraught and tense. She was supportive and listened to his concerns. With great difficulty, but over time Ned finally told her much of the story—the trips, the liquor, and intimate approaches. He complained to her that Andert was E-mailing him in spite of Ned’s requests to stop.

Both ‘foster’ parents personally reported the behavior to Abbot Timothy Kelly. They felt (and were) dismissed.

They were frustrated but the only advocates Ned had, since he would not yet share his concerns with his parents. They appealed to me to speak with Abbot Timothy once they heard my connection with the SJU Institute to combat abuse problems. I did. His response to me was glib, “Oh, he (Andert) may have a bit of a drinking problem.” He did not take any of the report seriously, even that of a teacher giving alcohol to a minor.

Ned became more anxious during the second semester of his senior year and moved to his grandmother’s home in the same area; his mother came from her home in another state to be with Ned to support him while he finished his final year at SJP. It is important to remember that all of these families were “Johnnies” of several generations standing and substantial supporters of St. John’s.

But Ned was finally able to share his concerns with his parents. Once Ned’s parents heard his story they went to see Abbot Timothy. Their experience is still fresh and distasteful. Whether from information at this interview or from other sources, Abbot Timothy agreed to remove Andert from the prep school. As he assured the parents, he “patted” Ned’s mother on the head and said, “Don’t worry, everything will be OK.” She still shutters at the memory and finds the meeting “condescending.” Ned and his parents felt intimidated and humiliated.

Abbot Kelly appointed Andert prefect in the freshman college dorm.

Ned’s dad, an ardent long-time supporter of St. John’s, was a class ahead of Andert when they were in Prep School. In hope’s of smoothing the edges of the conflict of the demotion from headmaster, Ned’s dad and mother invited Andert to supper at Pirate’s Cove, an up scale restaurant in the area. Andert had a great deal to drink and told the parents that his new assignment was his “perfect dream job.” And it was…“to be a prefect in a college dorm; have his (my) desk across from the door of the showers where he (I) could watch the young tight white asses of the boys going in and out.” The memory of that statement still haunts the parents.

Ned’s father met again with Kelly and told him: “From what I have seen this man is a threat to students.” He meant even college students. Kelly said, “What do you expect me to do?” Kelly in turn chided Ned’s father for talking to me about the situation and continuing concern.

After Kelly’s indifference, his transfer of Andert simply to an older group of potential victims plus the lack of any response to several reports from other parents and even monks who turned to me for the same assistance I felt tremendous pressure. I had talked about all of it to Kelly in private. (Every private report was ignored and put down, even those later acknowledged and settled by the Abbey. No investigation.)

Here I was Chair of a project set up and widely publicized to protect children and help eliminate dangers, first and foremost at St. John’s, but the head of the institution turned a deaf and defiant ear to the information that I was relaying to him. I polled the Executive Committee of the ISTI board for advice. They seemed supportive of my determination to speak with Kelly openly in an Executive Board meeting on September 18, 1995. The reaction of Abbot Timothy Kelly can only be described as verbally violent and rejecting. “I will not be manipulated,” are some of his words I remember.

Ned insists that his situation is not a question of homosexuality. He is correct. The crisis of Andert and St. John’s is an ongoing crisis of power and betrayal. It is a crisis of celibacy-advertised-but-not-lived. It is a crisis of men in positions of power that betray their responsibility to students and others and refuse to be accountable.

There was neither an intensive internal investigation conducted in Ned’s case as Fr. Skudlarek claims—my records show a great deal of intimidation—nor was there an adequate investigation in several other cases I presented to Abbot Kelly; even those where, in the end, the Abbey admitted culpability and settled the complaints for substantial sums of money.

Father Thomas Andert’s behavior is not a matter of hearsay. Neither is the reported inappropriate behavior of more than 45 other monks hearsay—20 cases were mediated. There are more to be considered. Nor is it misleading, unverified, or false that Andert’s appointment as the second in command of the monastery follows in a long tradition of superiors of the monastery who were non-celibately active. I have had the painful task of interviewing a number of people who suffered inappropriate friendships with former Abbot John Eidenschink and Novice Master, Cosmas Dahlheimer. Michael Blecker, former Rector of the Seminary and President of St. John’s University was a guest in my home after he became HIV positive; my wife and I were supportive of him personally and visited him when he was in hospice. I reviewed his death certificate and spoke with the funeral director who embalmed him.

At Halloween St. John’s Abbey does not have to don scary costumes; it has plenty of frightful skeletons that can give the unwary the creeps.

This is not to say that the Benedictines of Collegeville have not done much good in their century and a half of existence. They are telling that history well in their celebrations; and that part is true, too. But there is a much longer and painful historical account to be written. There are records. Suffice it to say that St. John’s Abbey has not yet come to grips with the vapors from problems that still slither along its halls and endanger others as well as its own wellbeing.

Posted: November 4, 2007

A. W. Richard Sipe
La Jolla, CA 92037

NB  The following excellent memo was added to this page on May 16, 2010.  It is an internal memo outlining the policy about sexuality for monks of the monastery.

St. John's Abbey
Collegeville, MN
November 30, 2005

1. We believe that human sexual orientation, both heterosexual and homosexual, is blessed by God as part of the original blessing of creation. We reject any suggestion that God withholds his blessings from some parts of his creation, and we do not believe that homosexual persons are objectively disordered.

2. We believe that human sexual energy is one of the most potent integrating forces in the human person. Whether homosexual or heterosexual, if a person fails to integrate this energy in a fundamental manner, it will likely become individually destructive and perhaps harmful to others as well. (For example, one who is unsure of or cannot accept a personal sexual orientation will have difficulty grasping what is essential to attain a chaste, celibate life.)

3. We believe both heterosexual and homosexual men have reached affective maturity enabling them to relate in a rich, appropriate and effective manner with men and women. Regardless of sexual orientation, we have seen heterosexual and homosexual men develop a profound sense of spiritual fatherhood with the ecclesial communities entrusted to them.

4. We believe that the crucial factor in reviewing prospective candidates for the monastic community is assessing an individual's psychodynamic development and capacity regardless of sexual orientation to live a chaste, celibate life that has the capacity for genuine generatively. Candidates for monastic life must be truly engaged in a formation process distinguished by emotional, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.

5. We believe that each member of the community has a serious moral and spiritual  responsibility to live chaste celibacy in a manner assuring that others in and outside the monastic community are not harmed by inappropriate  behavior or relationships.

6. Maturity is defined by healthy relationships, and we are all called upon to grow in healthy relationships no matter what the sexual orientation. Regardless of orientation, one is called upon to follow the same standards of mature behavior. We accomplish that in a manner commensurate with the orientation God has given to one.


[1]  Coleman J. Barry, Worship and Work. 1956 &1993; A Sense of Place: St. John’s of Collegeville. 1987; A Sense of Place II: The Benedictines of Collegeville. 1990.

[2]  Cf. website of Patrick Marker: Behind the Pine Curtin.


Cf.  Behind the Pine Curtain - from the July 28, 2010 edition of Gay Community News

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