US Bishop Hoeppner resigns after Vatican probe into cover-up

A Minnesota bishop who was investigated by the Vatican for allegedly interfering with past investigations into clergy sexual abuse has resigned, the Vatican said Tuesday. Bishop Michael Hoeppner’s resignation has been accepted by the Pope Francis and named a temporary replacement to run the Crookston diocese, the Holy See said in a statement. Hoeppner is 71, four years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.

Though the reasons has not been disclosed by the Vatican why Francis had accepted the resignation, but the Vatican in 2019 authorized an investigation into claims that Hoeppner had engaged in “acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct.” Hoeppner is accused of stating that a priest, Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, was fit for ministry despite allegedly knowing the priest had abused a 16-year-old boy in the early 1970s. Later, Ron Vasek who was the victim, sued the diocese, alleging that Hoeppner blackmailed him into retracting his allegations against the priest. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2017.

Hoeppner was the first bishop known to be investigated by the Vatican under a 2019 law that Francis approved laying out the procedures to conduct preliminary investigations against bishops accused of sex abuse or cover-up.