SAINT PAUL, Minn. - A Crookston bishop is the focus of a first of its kind lawsuit accusing him of keeping an alleged sexual assault from being reported.
It's the first time in our nation's history that a bishop has been named individually for coercing a sexual assault victim to stay silent.
Well-known sexual abuse attorney Jeff Anderson filed the lawsuit in Polk County court this week.
"The bishop has made conscious choices to conceal and not reveal the truth," Anderson states.
The complaint names current bishop Michael Hoeppner and the Crookston Diocese and alleges both entities knew about an allegation of sexual abuse involving one of its priests and didn't report it.
"I carried this burden with me for 46 years," alleged victim Ron Vasek says. "I'm 62 years old. There might be a lot of other people out there like me."
Vasek is a deacon candidate with the diocese. The complaint says during his training he told clergy members about being sexually abused, allegedly by retired Msgr. Roger Grundhaus during a trip to Ohio back in 1971. Vasek says he was 16 years old at the time.
"The abuse of this youth by Grundhaus was never known," Anderson says.
According to Anderson, the statute of limitations has passed on filing a civil suit against Grundhaus. That's why he and Vasek have decided to file a civil lawsuit against Bishop Hoeppner and the diocese for what Vasek perceives as threats to stay silent.
The complaint also says Hoeppner forced Vasek to sign a document that stated the abuse never happened.
"I told the bishop it was a lie," Vasek says. "I can't sign this. And I said, what's going to happen if I don't?"
According to the complaint, Hoeppner said Vasek's deacon status may be threatened if he didn't sign the document and the livelihood of Vasek's son, who currently serves as a priest in the Crookston Diocese, would also be negatively impacted.
Vasek says he signed the document in order to protect his son and decided to stay quiet about the whole ordeal until an overwhelming sense of guilt and a sense of duty to his fellow parishioners inspired him to finally speak up.
"I signed that letter to protect my son because I knew how evil a man the bishop could be if he wanted to be," Vasek says.
The Crookston Diocese sent KARE 11 an official statement, responding to these allegations. The statement says Hoeppner denies these allegations and is deeply saddened and troubled by them.
The diocese also says it plans to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged sexual abuse. Leaders say Msgr. Grundhaus has been retired since 2010 and is currently suspended from active ministry.
At this time no other lawsuits or charges have been filed against the bishop and Msgr. Grundhaus.
© 2017 KARE-TV