Archbishop Hebda to oversee misconduct investigation of bishop of Crookston

| September 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston is being investigated for allegedly thwarting a police or canonical investigation of clerical sexual misconduct, under protocols issued this year by Pope Francis, the Catholic News Agency reported Sept. 10.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as the metropolitan for the province of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, will oversee the investigation.

“Law enforcement has been notified of the allegations,” Archbishop Hebda said in a statement to CNA. “The allegations were reported to me under the procedures set out in Pope Francis’ recent legislation addressing bishop accountability, the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.”

Bishop Hoeppner

Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston. File photo

Archbishop Hedba said he has “appointed qualified lay persons to assist me in carrying out this investigation, to provide an independent review of its contents, and assist in its examination and analysis. All involved in this investigation have been encouraged to respond to investigators’ requests and provide accurate information so that the truth in this matter may become clear.”

Archbishop Hebda did not go into detail about the allegations. However, Bishop Hoeppner has been accused of pressuring a candidate for the permanent diaconate in his diocese, Ron Vasek, into recanting a statement that he was abused by a priest as a teenager in 1971.

The Catholic Spirit reported in May 2017 that Vasek told Bishop Hoeppner about the abuse in 2009 or 2010. According to the story, Vasek said the bishop told him that he couldn’t tell anyone, including his wife, because it would damage the reputation of the accused priest who had held leadership positions in the diocese.

According to the Diocese of Crookston, the abuse allegation was reported to law enforcement in 2011. Vasek also met with Bishop Hoeppner in October 2015, The Catholic Spirit reported, and Vasek alleges that the bishop coerced him into signing an agreement recanting his abuse accusation. However, Vasek filed a lawsuit May 9, 2017, part of which was settled in September of that year.

Bishop Hoeppner has denied the allegations brought by Vasek. He also remains in his post.

Archbishop Hebda noted that the investigation “is a preliminary one and not a full canonical process.” He will forward his report to the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s representative in the U.S., and to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, to determine whether a subsequent process is warranted.

Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact Tim O’Malley, director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis at 651-290-1618 or omalleyt@archspm.org.

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Category: Local News