Transparency? We're ready … – Catholic herald
A driver at sunset (PATRICK PLEUL / DPA / AFP via Getty Images)
The church's promise of transparency was not fulfilled in the + Hoeppner case
By Christopher R. Altieri
Former Bishop of Crookston, Michael J. Hoeppner, resigned from office at the request of Pope Francis after an investigation into the allegations was conducted. Hoeppner had "deliberately disrupted or avoided a canonical or civil investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor".
There is no official word on the details of this alleged cover-up.
Neither the Vatican nor the local jurisdictions published the investigation reports.
No Church official has said whether Bishop Hoeppner has been formally charged.
No Church official has said whether he has received trial or some other canonical trial.
Repeated inquiries from the Catholic Herald to official sources in the Vatican, Crookston, and St. Paul-Minneapolis – the metropolis where Crookston is suffragan – on these matters and the current status of Bishop Hoeppner have gone several days without response, sometimes without confirmation.
Bishop Hoeppner is said to have forced Ron Vasek – a man who was then in training for the Crookston Diaconate – to revoke an allegation of abuse against the then Father. Roger Grundhaus. Bishop Hoeppner has admitted in an affidavit that he is Father Dr. Grundhaus was suitable for the service despite his knowledge of the accusation and despite the knowledge that this violated church norms.
Bishop Hoeppner has rejected the compulsory claim.
All we know for certain is that after some investigation and "determination" he is no longer Bishop of Crookston – and that he "will move out of the state to a warmer climate". The news of Bishop Hoeppner's plans to move came from a letter posted on the Diocese of Crookston website earlier this week. There, Hoeppner looks forward to "returning to Crookston for personal visits and awaiting the appointment of a new bishop to determine other activities."
The man Pope Francis has appointed Apostolic Administrator of Crookston – a placeholder role – is Bishop Richard Pates, Des Moines, Iowa Emeritus.
In his own letter, also posted on the Crookston website earlier this week, Bishop Pates wrote of the "respect" and "gratitude" that Bishop Hoeppner deserves from believers.
"I would like to express the respect that Bishop Hoeppner owes at this point in time," wrote Bishop Pates. "He has worked together and disclosed his position on the investigation that was conducted into concerns related to the clergy sexual abuse process. Now that a conclusion has been reached, he has cooperated with determination."
Again, there is no official confirmation of what this decision is, no official word regarding the specific indictment, no official word regarding the trial that Bishop Hoeppner may or may not have received through the organs of the ecclesiastical judiciary, no official word regarding sanctions or Penalties or restrictions on his service.
"We are grateful," continued Bishop Pates, "also to Bishop Hoeppner for his more than thirteen years of generous service in the Diocese of Crookston."
Bishop Hoeppner celebrated his own "Farewell Mass" on Thursday in Crookston's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. "It was a real pleasure and a pleasure," said Hoeppner.
"It is a harvest festival mass," declared Bishop Hoeppner, "for the blessing that Almighty God has given us all and especially myself."
In his sermon, Bishop Hoeppner offered this line that comes closest to recognizing wrongdoing: “I apologize in any case to you and everyone – as I apologized to the Holy Father – for all the mistakes that I rule as bishop. "
The remainder of Bishop Hoeppner's sermon exactly followed the letter he posted on the diocese's website earlier this week, studying his many accomplishments and spending several paragraphs discussing all the things he liked about Bishop to be from Crookston.
Meanwhile, the Crookston faithful remain in the dark about the character and conduct of their former shepherd.
Believers in Crookston and elsewhere wonder what really happened.
The world learns that a Catholic bishop accused of meddling in a canonical or civil investigation into the sexual abuse of clergymen will retire early with honor – with full benefit too? – and lives with relatives in the sun belt.
That sounds more like a reward than punishment.