Six Abuse Allegations Recorded
By Jill Callison
Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, SD)
May 23, 2003
The first reports of abuse involving a priest who is the subject of a new lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls occurred 40 years ago.
Bishop Robert Carlson said Thursday the diocese has records of six abuse allegations against the Rev. Bruce MacArthur, who has not served a South Dakota parish since 1973.
The diocese has settled one legal action involving MacArthur, Carlson said, although the victim requested a confidentiality agreement that prohibits him from discussing details, including financial payment.
A Florida woman, who said MacArthur abused her beginning when she was 10, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, seeking unspecified damages.
MacArthur, now in his 80s, lives in El Paso, Texas, and Gallup, N.M. He and Carlson, along with retired Bishop Paul Dudley, the Sioux Falls diocese and several others, are named in the lawsuit.
Judith "Judy" Glassman DeLonga, 48, now of Pensacola, Fla., says MacArthur molested her from about 1965 to 1970 while she lived in Beaver Dam, Wis., and he was on leave from the Sioux Falls diocese.
The lawsuit states that the bishops and the dioceses are guilty of fraud, concealment and negligence.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday afternoon, Carlson said a review of MacArthur's file indicates the earliest cases date back to the 1960s and early 1970s.
"There were two (victims) that had come forward, I think, in the mid-1960s, and although this current victim survivor was abused beginning in the 1960s, she did not come forward until last summer," Carlson said.
He said one victim came forward during a series of meetings he conducted around the diocese.
That case also originated in the 1960s. Another woman reported being abused by MacDonald in response to an ad in the diocesan newspaper in the mid-1990s, inviting victims of abuse to contact the church for help.
"I guess we knew there are many victims of Bruce MacArthur," said Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, one of DeLonga's attorney. "That's just a reminder of how long and how large this trail of devastation is that this man has been allowed to wreak for so many decades. I have to ask the question, how many more are there?"
Stephanie Pochop of Johnson Eklund Nicholson & Peterson of Gregory, also DeLonga's attorneys, echoed those comments, saying she was surprised but not shocked to hear of six victims.
"Considering the amount of time he'd been in South Dakota, it doesn't surprise me," Pochop said. "He was in a lot of places."
The late Bishop Lambert Hoch assigned MacArthur to parishes in Milbank and Yankton between 1954 and1958. After serving at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he returned to eastern South Dakota in 1960 and was assigned to the state mental hospital in Yankton and the parishes in Platte and Ramona.
When MacArthur was transferred to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in about 1965, a letter from Hoch indicates that problems with the priest already had surfaced.
"During the summer of 1963 I was alerted to his problem," Hoch wrote. He sent MacArthur to a New Mexico treatment facility for priests, but learned of another problem involving MacArthur in early 1965.
The auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee wrote back, "As long as he is aware of my knowing his problem I could direct him to a competent psychologist and medic ... where we have directed many a priest with great success."
Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said Thursday that it had not previously received any abuse allegations concerning MacArthur. He said the priest had served at St. Therese and St. Philip Neri parishes in Milwaukee and St. Joseph Hospital in Beaver Dam between March 1965 and June 1970.
It was while on assignment at Beaver Dam that MacArthur met DeLonga, then a 10-year-old girl, hospitalized for treatment of a gastrointestinal ailment.
She said in court documents that abuse began while she was hospitalized. MacArthur was accepted as a friend by her parents, frequently visiting her home and accompanying the family on vacations.
DeLonga said the abuse took place in many locations, including MacArthur's efficiency apartment, in motels and on a sailboat.
The abuse continued for some weeks after MacArthur returned to South Dakota in 1970.
He served parishes in Britton and Seneca until 1973 when he asked to be assigned to Texas to be near his ailing mother.
In 1990, when MacArthur was seeking part-time work, Dudley wrote to the bishop of San Angelo, Texas. The letter was given to DeLonga's attorneys by the diocese along other correspondence involving MacArthur.
"Bruce is in good standing with the Diocese of Sioux Falls," Dudley wrote. "Because of previous difficulties in our small diocese, it was a mutual decision that Bruce seek ministry outside of South Dakota. ... It is my understanding that he has sought extensive counseling in dealing with the sexual issues that has (sic) afflicted him in the past."
Dudley told Bishop Michael Pfeifer that MacArthur should not be assigned to a ministry where he would have regular involvement with young people and that MacArthur should not be overworked.
Dudley, who now lives in Northfield, Minn., did not return a telephone call seeking comment. MacArthur, who does not have a telephone, could not be reached for comment.
In 1992, MacArthur wrote Pfeifer, "As the woman wrote and I agree, I should not be working in the capacity of a priest. The past can not be unhinged from the present in the minds of those who are hurt."
The woman to whom MacArthur referred is not identified in the letter. He retired as a priest that year.
Carlson said that Dudley, who had never met MacArthur, began to search him out during his time in Texas and make sure his supervisors knew of the priest's past.
He has no figures on how much money the Sioux Falls diocese has spent on MacArthur's treatment and other expenses.
The Sioux Falls diocese has been reviewing its files on priests to make sure it is aware of all such incidents, Carlson said.
"At some point we will share with the diocese all that we've spent since 1950," he said.
The Sioux Falls diocese has had few such incidents, Carlson said, while acknowledging heightened attention to the topic since allegations of widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese led to a wave of abuse disclosures across the nation.
"We've had something like 500 to 600 priests that have worked in this diocese," since 1950, Carlson said. Currently there are 89 diocesan priests.
However, Carlson said the diocese has both legal and moral responsibilities to those who were abused by clergy.
"I perceive this as a moral responsibility that I extend outreach to the victims," Carlson said. "Hopefully the fact that this has been made public will be an opportunity for other people who are victims to come forward."
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