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The Latest: Diocese denies bishop coerced deacon candidate

Ron Vasek, center, talks of the alleged sex abuse coverup he suffered while addressing a news conference along with his wife Patty, right, and attorney Jeff Anderson, left, Tuesday, May 9, 2017 in St. Paul, Minn. Anderson announced a lawsuit against Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn., accusing the bishop and diocese of concealing a report of abuse and threatening retaliation against Vasek if he went public. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Latest on a lawsuit accusing a Minnesota bishop of suppressing a report of sexual abuse (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

A Catholic diocese in Minnesota says its bishop denies coercing a deacon candidate into remaining silent about a priest he alleges abused him decades earlier.

The Diocese of Crookston says in a statement that Bishop Michael Hoeppner (HEP’-ner) “categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged” Ronald Vasek not to report his allegations against Monsignor Roger Grundhaus.

The statement also says Vasek’s allegations against Grundhaus were reported to law enforcement in 2011.

The diocese said it plans to conduct a thorough investigation and that it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further until it’s completed.

Grundhaus, a retired former vicar general of the diocese, says he’s been told not to talk about Vasek’s lawsuit. He’s been suspended from public ministry.

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4:30 p.m.

A Minnesota man who hopes to become a deacon in the Catholic Church is accusing his bishop of blackmailing him into keeping quiet about being abused by a beloved priest decades earlier.

Ronald Vasek says Bishop Michael Hoeppner (HEP’-ner) of Crookston threatened to block his dream and to hurt his son’s career as a priest.

Vasek is now suing the bishop and the northwestern Minnesota diocese.

His voice choked with emotion, Vasek told reporters Tuesday that his deep faith required him to come forward.

The lawsuit says Vasek was exploring becoming a deacon in 2010 when he reported the abuse to Hoeppner, who told him not to tell anyone. And he alleges the bishop coerced him into signing a retraction in 2015.

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9:05 a.m.

A man who says he was abused by a priest 46 years ago is suing Bishop Michael Hoeppner (HEP’-ner) and the Diocese of Crookston in Minnesota, alleging the bishop coerced him into signing a document saying the abuse never happened.

The lawsuit says Ronald Vasek was exploring whether to become a deacon in 2010 when he reported the abuse to Hoeppner. He says the bishop advised him not to tell anyone. It also alleges Hoeppner suppressed his report by threatening to make it hard for him to become a deacon, and threatening Vasek’s son’s career as a priest.

Attorney Jeff Anderson says it’s the first time a U.S. bishop has been sued individually for coercion.

The diocese’s vicar general, Monsignor Michael Foltz, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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