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Minnesota Benedictine Abbey Named in Fraud Lawsuit for Alleged Child Cover-Up

Jul 20, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

A Roman Catholic religious order in Minnesota has been named in a lawsuit alleging it knew one of its members was sexually abusing students as far back as the 1950s, yet allowed the predator to continue to teach for decades.  The clergy sexual abuse lawsuit, which accuses St. John's Abbey of fraud, was filed by a former student of St. John's Prep School who alleges he was abused by the Rev. Allen Tarlton in the 1980s.

Tarlton taught English at the school, according to a report from the Associated Press.  Tarlton has admitted to prior abuse in depositions for other lawsuits, and in 2002 St. John's Abbey removed him from his position as director of the Oblate program.  That year, Tarlton was among more than a dozen priests in the abbey facing restrictions because of sexual abuse allegations.

The lawsuit alleges that three abbotts at St. John’s knew of the allegations against Tarlton.  According to the complaint, he underwent alcohol and sex offender treatment several times between 1960 and 1983.  Yet authorities were never alerted about any allegations made against him.  Rather, he was given teaching assignments at St. John's Prep, and at other locations in other states and the Bahamas.

A spokesperson for the Abbey said he could not comment on the lawsuit’s claims.   Brother Aelred Senn told the Associated Press that Tarlton is now in his 80s, and hasn't been active in the ministry since 1992.  He said the allegations in the lawsuit would be investigated.

The lawsuit against St. Johns Abbey is just one of many to be brought against Catholic dioceses, religious orders, and institutions that have accused the church of covering up child abuse.  In the decade since the first major wave of sexual abuse lawsuits were weighed against the Catholic Church in the U.S, it’s become apparent that untold numbers of children were victims of sexual abuse committed by priests working for the church. The church, rather than risking its reputation, opted to keep these issues to themselves.  Rather than removing abusive priests, they would be transferred to different churches, allowing them to prey on unknowing parishioners and their children.

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