The circumstance in which it was signed, the timing, and the content of the letter are significant.
Let’s start with the circumstance in which the letter was signed. Bishop Hoeppner called Ron on his cell phone to meet on October 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm in his residence. This was unusual, as all prior official meetings were completed in his office. Why the change of location? Was this to prevent others from knowing of this meeting? Was this to conceal what was going to happen at this meeting? This also should have been a meeting at which the Vicar General was present because of his role of reporting abuse in the Diocese.
At this meeting the bishop presented a letter for Ron to sign. This letter was composed prior to Ron’s arrival. Ron states that the bishop presented the letter stating that it was composed by Msgr. Foltz, who was and is currently the Vicar General. The letter said something about how nothing happened between Ron and Fr. Grundhaus. Ron does not know exactly what this original letter said because he did not get a copy.
Bishop Hoeppner told Ron that he needed to sign the letter to clear Msgr. Grundhaus from sexual abuse allegations so he could perform ministry in the Fargo Diocese. Per the Bishop, the Fargo diocese had notified the Diocese of Crookston that Msgr. Grundhaus was not on the list of priests who could minister in the Fargo Diocese because of the allegation. Since the Fargo diocese already knew about the abuse allegation, there was no reason for Ron to make any request for confidentiality as the Bishop claims.
When presented with the letter, Ron denied the truth of the letter and refused to sign. The bishop then coerced Ron into signing the letter by stating that it would make it difficult for him to ordain Ron a deacon if this allegation about Grundhaus got out. It would not only make it difficult to ordain him, but find a parish to place him in, and it would be difficult for Ron’s son, a priest in the diocese. Because Ron felt threatened in the situation and for the safety of his son, he then agreed to sign the letter.
The timing of the letter is significant. This incident of the bishop asking Ron to sign this letter occurred after the diocese received a court order (August, 2015) to release a list of any priests accused of abuse in the diocese. This list of priests that was released by the Crookston diocese did not include Msgr. Grundhaus, even though the Bishop was made aware of this allegation of abuse in 2010.
Why would the Bishop call Ron in to sign a letter at this time?
As part of the CRIMINAL investigation into coercion by the Bishop, a search warrant was issued and Diocese of Crookston turned over this letter through the attorney. This letter was then released as part of the civil settlement.
This letter that police recovered is as follows:
I, Ron Vasek, regarding a trip I was on when I was 16 years old, and on which a priest of the Diocese of Crookston was also participating, clearly and freely state that I have no desire to nor do I make any accusation of sexual impropriety by the priest toward me.
The above letter was drafted on Office of the Bishop letterhead. To note, the letter does not name the priest that abused Ron, Msgr. Grundhaus, even though they were aware that the allegations were against Msgr. Grundhaus. How does this letter clear his name?
When Ron saw the letter that was presented to him after the search warrant was served on the bishop, he told the investigator he did not think that was the letter he signed. It did not indicate the date, 1971, did not include the location, Columbus Ohio, and did not include Grundhaus’s name. He also indicated to the investigator that he never signs his name Mr. Ron Vasek. He also could not remember the Bishop’s letterhead as being on the letter. Although he had only seen the letter for a few moments, it did not seem like it was the one he signed, and he was not positive it was a copy of the original.
If as the Bishop claims in his article dated October 6th that he wrote the letter in Ron’s presence, would Ron not have informed the bishop that he never uses Mr. Ron Vasek as a signature? If Bishop Hoeppner says he composed the letter, why did he tell Ron that Msgr. Foltz wrote it? We find these details essential as to the validity of the bishop’s statement.
The circumstance of the location of the signing indicates that the Bishop didn’t want others to know about the meeting, the timing of the letter indicates the Bishop wanted to validate why Msgr. Grundhaus was not listed as an accused priest on the court ordered list, and the content of the letter did not accomplish any of the purposes the Bishop stated it was for. What do you think about this letter?
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