Minnesota Bishop Resigns at Pope's Request

Bishop Michael Hoeppner accused of pressuring victim to recant claim against a priest
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2021 6:11 AM CDT
Updated Apr 14, 2021 7:11 AM CDT
Minnesota Bishop Resigns at Pope's Request
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. prays during a semi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Baltimore, on Nov. 10, 2008.   (AP Photo/ Steve Ruark, File)

A Minnesota bishop resigned Tuesday at the request of the pope after an investigation determined he'd covered up a sex abuse allegation involving a priest. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston, which is made up of some 35,000 Catholics, said an investigation was launched at the Vatican's request over allegations that Bishop Michael Hoeppner "had at times failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy," per the AP. It ultimately found Hoeppner had pressured former deacon candidate Ron Vasek to recant his claim that he was sexually abused as a 16-year-old by the popular priest Rev. Roger Grundhaus in the early 1970s. Grundhaus denies the abuse, while Hoeppner denies the coverup. He did apologize Tuesday "for my failures in governing as bishop."

Pope Francis asked Hoeppner to resign after the investigation found he'd coerced the alleged victim into signing a 2015 letter denying that the abuse happened; Grundhaus' name didn't appear on a subsequent list of priests accused of sex abuse. Vasek sued and settled for an undisclosed amount. Hoeppner—who at 71 is four years from the normal retirement age for bishops—is the first US Catholic bishop known to have been investigated by the Vatican under rules and guidance put in place in 2019 related to "greater accountability of bishops when there are reports of abuse by clergy under their supervision," per the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 2,000-hour investigation into Hoeppner culminated in a report that was 1,533 pages long. (More Roman Catholic bishops stories.)

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