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Stearns Co. lawsuit claims St. John's Abbey knew of past abuse

A former student sued St. John's Abbey for fraud on Thursday, alleging the religious order knew one of its members had been accused of sexual abuse as early as 1958, yet let him continue teaching.

The lawsuit was filed in Stearns County by a former St. John's Prep student who claims he was sexually abused by the Rev. Allen Tarlton in the 1980s.

Tarlton was an English teacher at the Minnesota school.

According to the St. Cloud Times, ( the lawsuit alleges at least three abbots knew of the allegations against Tarlton, but put him in teaching roles at St. John's Prep, and at other locations in other states and the Bahamas.

A message left with the abbey was not returned to The Associated Press Thursday.

In 2002, Tarlton was among more than a dozen priests in the abbey facing restrictions because of abuse allegations. In depositions for previous lawsuits, Tarlton has admitted to prior abuse.

Also in 2002, the abbey removed Tarlton from his position as director of the Oblate program, which allows lay people to devote themselves to the Benedictine faith, without taking vows or living in a religious community.

The lawsuit claims Tarlton was sent to psychiatric treatment, alcohol and sex offender treatment several times between 1960 and 1983.

Jeff Anderson, the attorney representing the plaintiff, known as John Doe LP, said the way the abbey moved Tarlton around shows an "adherence to the code of secrecy."

The lawsuit claims the abbey committed fraud by not telling students about Tarlton's history and instead holding out the abbey, prep school and university as places where children would be safe from abuse.


Information from: St. Cloud Times,