Minneapolis man's legal move aims to evict clergy accused of sexual misconduct

Associated Press/July 6, 2003

St. Cloud, Minn. -- A Minneapolis man is using a court maneuver usually reserved for landlords with non-paying tenants to demand the removal of 11 monks and priests from St. John's Abbey for allegedly not complying with their vows of celibacy.

John Kerwin filed an unlawful detainer against St. John's, which he accused of "harboring pedophiles.'' His legal action targets 11 monks and priests who are either restricted in their activities and movements at the abbey or are on leave from the abbey for various sexual misdeeds.

Kerwin, a lifelong Catholic, demands their removal from the abbey because the men have violated their "lease agreement'' by not complying with their vows of celibacy.

Unlawful detainers are used by tenants to evict renters who have violated their lease agreements.

"The kind of thing that occurred - and in my opinion is being sheltered at St. John's Abbey - is unprecedented, except maybe the Spanish Inquisition,'' said Kerwin, a 58-year-old whose family owns farmland near St. Cloud.

Abbot John Klassen last year acknowledged that about a dozen abbey monks or priests have restrictions on their movements and activities after being accused of various sexual misdeeds. Some of the accused have admitted the allegations against them. Klassen said then that he had no intention of expelling any of the accused men from abbey property.

Klassen was unavailable for comment on Kerwin's action. But abbey spokesman Rev. William Skudlarek reiterated the abbot's philosophy.

"They are our family members who have done wrong and we are first of all concerned for healing the wrong they have done, primarily for the victims but also helping them repent and be converted,'' Skudlarek said. "We think that can be done better here.''

A hearing on Kerwin's request has been scheduled for Thursday in Stearns County District Court.

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