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Local Catholics respond to news on former priest’s sex abuse

Published 10:17am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Struggling with a ‘sense of betrayal’

By Trey Mewes and Jenae Peterson

Area Catholics and Pacelli Catholic Schools families are left with more questions than answers after the Diocese of Winona revealed Monday that a former priest may have sexually abused a teenager during his time in Austin. Yet local leaders say the news only shows the need for more transparency when it comes to sexual abuse in schools.


“What happened today in Austin has happened in the Twin Cities repeatedly, and every time it is with more feelings of disappointment, a sense of betrayal, a lack of trust,” said Pacelli President Jim Hamburge. “All of those things come to mind because they shouldn’t have happened in the first place and once it happened, [the accused] never should have been in a position to harm anyone else.”

The diocese released more details about 14 priests accused of sexually abusing children earlier this week. The list of priests includes Jack Krough, who served in Austin from 1976 to 1980 and from 1996 to 1998.

Krough taught at Pacelli High School during his tenure in the 1970s. In 1993, he admitted a photo of a nude 16-year-old male found in his home was taken by him in 1978. Krough also admitted he sexually abused a minor between 1979 and 1981 when he was confronted with accusations in 1997, during his second stint in Austin.

He was sent to St. Luke’s Institute after both admissions for treatment and assessment, and went back into ministry each time. He resigned from the ministry in 2002, after he was confronted in another incident involving inappropriate touching.

As of December, Krough lived in Barron, Wis. He is facing pending laicization proceedings, which would strip him of his priesthood.

Priest: Allegations surprised former students

Former students and coworkers say they were surprised by the allegations as Krough had an excellent reputation in the community.

“I learned a lot from him; he was an excellent teacher, and the experiences that I had with him were only positive,” Gabrielle Smith, a 1981 Pacelli graduate, said.

Smith and Helen Keating, a former officer worker at Pacelli, both say they never had any indication Krough had acted inappropriately.

“I was very impressed with him,” Keating said of Krough’s work as a teacher.

Another former Austin priest, Louis Cook, was accused in 1997 of sexually abusing a child between 1966 and 1969 when he served elsewhere in Minnesota, but claims against him were shortly withdrawn. Cook faced no further complaints and retired in 1998. He died in 2004.

Cook served in Austin from 1970 to 1976 and briefly served at St. Augustine in 2000.

The information release Monday shows when church officials first learned of allegations against each priest. And, it shows that some clergy were allowed to remain in ministry for years, even decades, after those allegations came to light.

The information also shows that some priests went to treatment multiple times, then were returned to ministry at parishes or high schools. In two cases, the priests weren’t accused until after they died. In one case, a victim withdrew her accusation. Only two of the priests faced criminal charges.

The information released by the diocese also includes assignment histories and priest photos.

“We remain steadfast to finding and telling the truth and are vigilantly committed to ensuring these unspeakable crimes against children never happen again,” Winona Bishop John Quinn said in a statement.

The names of the accused priests were published in December as part of a court order, but details about the allegations against them weren’t revealed.

The diocese said it was releasing these additional details voluntarily. But attorneys for victims of clergy abuse said the diocese had fought to keep the information under seal. A judge had ordered the diocese to turn priest files over to victims’ attorneys — who plan to publish even more details.

Hamburge said the church’s response is encouraging as he believes more organizations should respond to sexual abuse allegations in a transparent manner.

“All of us are everything from disappointed, shocked, embarrassed, betrayed, but the good thing is that finally, it is being addressed in a public, responsible way that should ensure a much higher level of safety for children and young adults,” Hamburge said.

Now there’s one more example to go over when Pacelli staff review teacher ethics at the beginning of the school year, according to Hamburge.

“We treat every potential incident as serious, because I don’t ever want any of the schools that I’m even remotely connected to to have to endure this,” he said. “There’s no chance it’s not going to be confronted.”

—The Associated Press contributed to this report

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