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  Diocese Discloses 3 Abuse Claims

By Jill Callison
Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD)
May 9, 2002

Three previously unknown victims of sexual abuse have contacted the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls in the past six weeks, Bishop Robert Carlson said Wednesday.

Two of the cases took place in the early 1980s. The third occurred more than 40 years ago, he said.

"Are there new priest abusers? No," Carlson said. "Are there new victims, yes."

None of the three priests named by the alleged victims are working in the diocese, Carlson said. One is deadd. Another is retired and has left the area. The bishop did not know where he lives.

The third was declared unable to function as a priest by the Vatican. ."He had other victims back in the '80s," Carlson said.

The announcement came the day after the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced it is investigating charges of sexual abuse against Paul Dudley, a former Sioux Falls bishopey.

Dudley has denied the allegations. The accuser says Dudley fondled him on four occasions in the 1950s, when he was an 11- or 12-year-old altar boy.

Carlson said his biggest concern in recent weeks has been the victims, both those who have come forward and those who remaind silent. He said he has worked hard to protect those who have spoken out. "If people want my resignation because I'm protecting the victims, I'm very happy to give it to them," the bishop said.

In his column in the diocesan newsletter in April, Carlson wrote, "In the past, I am assured that Bishop Dudley reached out to victims of abuse and removed those who were responsible."

Dudley, 75, who led the diocese from 1978 to 1995, is retired and lives in Northfield, Minn. He said Wednesday night that during his 16 years in Sioux Fallse, an estimated six priests were sent for treatment after sexual abuse allegations were made.

"In the 1980s, we tried to follow the professional advice given to us by the top psychiatrists in the country," Dudley said. "The priests were sent out to treatment, got evaluated, some for three months, some for six months. Some we were told were too dangerous ,and they were never put back in the parishes. Others we were told were OK."

Most professionals today do not believe sexual offenders can be treated.

Carlson said that during the eight years he has been bishop, only one priest was accused of sexual abuse of a child. He was removed from ministry within 72 hours and placed on administrative leave. The priest later was permanently removed from the ministry.

In 1995, Kurt Brick, a former Sioux Falls resident who now lives in Rapid City, filed suit against the Sioux Falls Diocese, saying he had been sexually abused by William Neuroth, a former priest.

The diocese and Brick reached a settlement in 1999 that resulted in Brick receiving an undisclosed amount of money and an apology.

Brick said Wednesday that he hopes the accusations against Dudley prove untrue.

"I hope it goes away for him," Brick said. "God, it won't stop. The snowball has turned into an avalanche. More than anything, my heart is just screaming out to say I hope this is untrue."

Brick was referring to the accusations of abuse by priests that have surfaced across the nation in recent weeks. At least 176 priests suspected of molesting minors have either resigned or been taken off duty in 28 states and the District of Columbia since the scandal erupted in January.

Carlson said two of the three victims who have come forward in recent weeks were minors at the time of abuse and the third was on the "borderline" between being a minor and adulthoodd. Carlson would not disclose the gender of the victims.

Lt. Bob Runyan, of the Sioux Falls Police Department's crimes against persons unit, said Wednesday that one case is being investigated. His department can only investigate incidents that occurred in Sioux Falls.

"When all the facts are compiled, we'll be submitting the case to the state's attorney's office for review, to decide whether it is worthy of prosecution," Runyan said. The case likely will go to the state's attorney next week, he said.

Carlson said the second case also will be turned over to police. In the third case, the one that occurred more than 40 years ago, the victim only wanted to talk about it. That priest has been dead for more than 40 years, Carlson said.

When victims come in, they are urged to seek professional assistance, Carlson said. "We always try to provide counseling if they want it," he said. "It's almost automatic. Each victim's story is followed through. Some just want to share it. Others have greater needs."

The Sioux Falls Diocese has had a policy concerning sexual misconduct in place since 1989. Chancellor Jerry Klein said Wednesday that the diocese also plans to establish a panel of five lay people who would review allegations of sexual abuse as they come in.

"It's been done in a number of other dioceses," he said. "It's something we've talked about for some time. With everything going on, it seems like an appropriate time to move forward on it."

t Carlson also has asked the South Dakota Attorney General's Office to review how cases have been handled in light of state statutes. Kevin Thom, a spokesman for the office, said an agent from the Division of Criminal Investigation has been assigned to meet with the bishop and look at the process.

tIn April, the Argus Leader asked Carlson to release information on any allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Carlson said then that there was no central file dating back over the diocese's 100-plus yearsd. The bishop said Wednesday that he was going back through files to find and review any old casesd.

"Number one, I want to make absolutely sure that things have been handled right," Carlson said. "Number two, when I look at how something's been handled in light of concerns today, I learn something every time.".

Reach Jill Callison at 331-2307 or jcalliso@argusleader.com

Diocese asked for state review

On April 2, the Argus Leader wrote Bishop Robert Carlson a letter asking for information about past cases of sexual abuse by priests, something newspapers across the country have done as allegations have developed.

Questions included:

Over the past 40 years, how many allegations of abuse by clergy have been reported to the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls? How many were substantiated, and when did they occur? How many clergy were removed as a result? Were they moved to different parishes or different dioceses or were they removed entirely from the priesthood? How far back do your records go on this issue?

In a letter dated April 10, Carlson responded, "We have no central file covering sexual abuse or allegations concerning sexual abuse dating back over the 100 plus years that the Diocese has been in operation. However, I have invited the attorney general for South Dakota, or anyone he might appoint, to review how I have handled cases in light of state statutes.

"To my knowledge, we have no pedophiles serving in any of the offices, ministries or the 152 parishes of this diocese. When I came to the diocese, I asked the staff to review priest files with me. The only case involving a lawsuit in my time was the (William) Neuroth case. I am certain you are aware that there is a confidentiality agreement in that case. These agreements are meant to protect all parties and are binding on all parties. We were represented by our insurer, and it did not involve monies from the Foundation or CFSA which are restricted and can only be used for ministry."

 
 

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