SNAP files coercion lawsuit against Bp. Hoeppner of Crookston MN Diocese, bishop denies any wrongdoing

A former vicar general for the Diocese of Winona accused of coercion "categorically denies" the claim that he covered up an allegation of clergy sexual assault, according to a statement released by the Diocese of Crookston, where he now is bishop.

Michael Joseph Hoeppner, 67, is the first bishop in the United States to be individually sued for coercion, said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney who's represented hundreds of survivors of clergy abuse. The personal injury lawsuit was filed Tuesday.

Hoeppner was vicar general at Winona from about 1998 until being named bishop at Crookston in 2007, church records show.

In 2010, Ron Vasek was exploring the possibility of becoming a deacon in the Catholic Church when he allegedly told Hoeppner he'd been sexually assaulted in about 1971 by Roger Grundhaus.

At the time of the alleged abuse, Grundhaus was a priest at the diocese; he was vicar general of the Crookston diocese from 1991 to 2008.
continue at Roch Post-Bulletin

So why is being charged with coercion instead of a heftier charge?  According to Minn Public Radio, it sounds like the case has already been reviewed by law enforcement and no charges were brought.
But in a statement Tuesday the Diocese of Crookston said the bishop "categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek to not pursue his allegations." The statement said the diocese encourages the reporting of abuse. It said Vasek's abuse claims were reported to law enforcement in 2011, but did not say who made the report.

The diocese said it plans to conduct an investigation into the allegations, and would have no further comment about Vasek's allegations until it is complete.

The accused priest declined to comment. He retired in 2010, and his name does not appear on a list of clergy who the diocese said had been accused of abuse. In 2014, the Diocese of Crookston released the names of six accused priests after similar releases by other Minnesota dioceses in response to public pressure from victims and parishioners and, in some cases, court orders and pending litigation.
MPR

We've seen SNAP parade around some other baseless claims, and might be looking at ways of getting their money without suffering the now real possibility of a countersuit.

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