Sex-Abuse Suit Filed against Diocese
Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD)
May 22, 2003
A Florida woman who claims she was sexually abused by a priest during her childhood has filed a lawsuit against Bishop Robert Carlson and the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, also names retired Bishop Paul Dudley, who led the Catholic Diocese from 1978 to 1995; the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and its bishop; and the Rev. Bruce MacArthur, a retired priest of the Sioux Falls diocese now living in Texas.
Judith "Judy" Glassman DeLonga, 48, of Pensacola, Fla., alleges in the lawsuit that MacArthur molested her from about 1965 to 1970 while she lived in Beaver Dam, Wis.
Dudley, contacted by phone Wednesday, said he had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment on it.
Carlson said he had not seen the lawsuit as of late Wednesday afternoon, but he had been in contact with DeLonga.
"She's a very nice person," Carlson said of DeLonga. "We're very sorry this happened. We'll continue to work with her and other victims."
He said the Sioux Falls Diocese had turned over MacArthur's records to the state Division of Criminal Investigation and acknowledged that the diocese has been contacted by other people who said they were victims of MacArthur's sexual misconduct, although he did not have the specific number Wednesday.
MacArthur does not have a telephone and could not be reached.
DeLonga is represented in the lawsuit by Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul and Rick Johnson and Stephanie Pochop of Johnson Eklund Nicholson & Peterson of Gregory.
The lawsuit asks for damages in excess of $75,000. It alleges MacArthur committed sexual abuse and accuses the dioceses and bishops of fraud, concealment and negligence.
Anderson, nationally known for his representation of victims of clergy sexual abuse, praised Carlson for his work with DeLonga.
"He's been very forthcoming, to his credit," Anderson said. "He was able to help Judy confront MacArthur."
After DeLonga requested an apology from MacArthur and a face-to-face meeting, Carlson contacted MacArthur and accompanied him to Florida.
In a letter to DeLonga dated September 2002, MacArthur wrote, "I wish to achnowledge (sic) my immoral and grevous (sic) acts with you not only because they are contrary to human nature, but also, because, I am a priest and I took you away from Christ the High Priest."
Anderson saved his harshest criticism for Dudley, saying that the retired bishop had conspired to keep MacArthur's sexual misconduct from the parishes he served, the public and the police.
"They're supposed to be healers, not concealers," Anderson said. "I've been doing this for 22 years. ... It's sickening that I'm still here."
MacArthur, now 80, is retired and lives in Texas and New Mexico. He had been ordained in 1953 as a Roman Catholic priest in the Sioux Falls Diocese.
According to the lawsuit, the late Bishop Lambert Hoch was notified in 1963 of a problem with MacArthur involving sexual misconduct with a minor. Hoch then sent MacArthur to a center that treated priests for sexually abusive behaviors. In 1964, MacArthur was assigned to Ramona. When another complaint occurred, the bishop sent MacArthur to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
A Feb. 28, 1965, letter from Hoch to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee referred to the decision to move MacArthur from the Sioux Falls Diocese.
"During the summer of 1963 I was alerted to his problem," Hoch wrote. "He told me his story, quite frankly I believed, and I sent him to Via Coeli for some months. Then I re-assigned him to another parish and all went well until a few weeks ago when I was alerted to a recurrence of the same problem."
Via Coeli was the treatment center in New Mexico.
DeLonga charges that MacArthur first began abusing her when she was 10 years old and had been admitted to the hospital where MacArthur served as a chaplain. She alleges that the abuse continued until she was in high school, even after MacArthur had returned to the Sioux Falls Diocese.
DeLonga said that the actual abuse began in the hospital room where she first met MacArthur. He quickly became accepted as a regular visitor to her parents' home.
"He was very friendly," said DeLonga, a former teacher who has been married for about five years. "I still remember him coming into my hospital room. He seemed kind, he was smiling. He was nice."
DeLonga said the abuse took place at her home and on vacations when the priest joined her family. She said abuse also occurred in Sioux Falls in the summer of 1970 after he had returned to this diocese. She says he had invited her and friends to visit him here.
Emotional and spiritual abuse also took place, DeLonga charged. "To me he was like a protector, yet he was very controlling," she said Wednesday. "I was very dependent on him. He said we were going to get married. By the time I was old enough, he said priests would be able to marry."
DeLonga first contacted Anderson on May 21, 2002, during a period when the Roman Catholic Church in the United States was undergoing close scrutiny in the wake of several allegations about priest abuse.
Anderson wrote to Carlson about DeLonga's allegations on June 5, 2002.
The Sioux Falls Diocese offered to pay for her visits with a counselor, but she has not taken them up on the offer, DeLonga says. Carlson said DeLonga has been in contact with the review board made up of lay people established by the diocese.
In the mid-1990s, the Sioux Falls Diocese began asking victims of clergy abuse to come forward.
In April 2002, Carlson reported that 14 people had contacted the diocese since the previous spring to report they were sexually abused at some point in their lives. However, not all of those cases occurred in South Dakota or involved contact by a priest.
The diocese also has been reviewing its files on priests. Information on MacArthur was forwarded to the state Department of Criminal Investigation before DeLonga came forward, Carlson said. "After she contacted us, we shared that fact as well," he said.
Carlson had never met MacArthur until they traveled to see DeLonga. He said if the diocese's file on MacArthur is correct, the retired priest has not been in South Dakota since 1973 and has not functioned as a priest since 1992.
According to court documents, MacArthur first served the parish in Milbank. He also served Yankton and Platte, and was assigned to the state mental hospital in Yankton.
After returning from Milwaukee, he served in Britton and Seneca before being assigned to duty in Texas. He remained a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls.
Earlier this year, Dudley was cleared of sexual-abuse allegations after a six-month investigation by investigators for the Archdiocese of St. Paul.
More than 50 people were interviewed, and it was concluded that the allegations of abuse by three people were not supported by the evidence.
A Minneapolis man said Dudley abused him more than 45 years ago when the man was an altar boy at a south Minneapolis parish. Two additional complaints were presented privately to the archdiocese by women alleging misconduct by Dudley in the 1960s and '70s.
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