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  Former Del. Priest Forfeits Va. License
Allegations of Abuse End Cleric's Work with Children

By Steven Church
The News Journal [Delaware]
June 22, 2003

A former Catholic priest from Delaware who was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys in the mid-1980s has agreed to give up his license to counsel children in Virginia.

Edward F. Dudzinski Jr. surrendered his license last month as part of a settlement with the Virginia Board of Counseling. The board ruled that he had violated the terms of an earlier order that required him to confine his practice to adults and to work only under the supervision of another counselor. State officials had issued the order after reviewing allegations that he slept in the same bed with a minor on at least 10 occasions in 2001.

The one-time Brandywine Hundred priest has not been charged with a crime. He could not be reached for comment. Dudzinski did not return phone messages left at his home in Herndon, Va., in the last three months, including a call Friday.

Dudzinski's case is an example of how allegations made years ago against Catholic priests in Delaware and across the country continue to have repercussions. The controversy over abuse allegations has resulted in two recent developments in Delaware:

. The Legislature passed a bill last week eliminating the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse, including those in which the time limit for prosecution has expired. The bill, which has not yet been signed by the governor, could prompt new investigations into old allegations, the state Attorney General's Office said.

. Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli, head of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, approved a new policy for all adults involved in youth ministry. It requires criminal background checks and outlines behavioral standards for all who work with youth in diocesan programs. Its list of 14 inappropriate behaviors includes "sleeping in bed with a child."

A 'substantiated' case

Dudzinski worked as a priest in the early 1980s at St. Mary Magdalen Church near Fairfax and at St. Francis de Sales Church in Salisbury, Md.

The Wilmington diocese has acknowledged there have been "substantiated allegations" of child abuse against 18 priests, seven of whom are now dead. None of the priests is still in the active ministry in the diocese, church officials said. Earlier this year, the diocese announced it had removed one priest from office and accepted the resignations of two others, the first time the names of any accused priests had been publicly released. After the actions of the Virginia counseling board came to light, the diocese confirmed that Dudzinski was among the priests who had been removed from active ministry because of abuse allegations. Church officials have not released the names of any other priests on the list, saying they are still reviewing requests to make the names public.

If Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signs the legislation, retroactively removing the statute of limitations, prosecutors would reopen a review of those priests still living, Chief Deputy Attorney General Ferris M. Wharton said. Minner spokesman Gregory Patterson said Minner intends to sign the legislation.

"There could be prosecutions if the statute of limitations is expanded," Wharton said, adding there would have to be enough evidence to justify new charges.

After church officials learned of allegations of sexual abuse by Dudzinski in 1985, they barred him from priestly duties and from wearing the collar of a priest, said Wilmington Diocese spokesman Bob Krebs. Dudzinski was still technically a priest because he had not been defrocked, an action that can be taken only by the pope.

Later, the diocese paid for him to be treated at a psychiatric institute. In the 1990s, Dudzinski settled in Virginia, where he earned master's and doctorate degrees and began working as a counselor for teenage boys with drug and alcohol problems. In recent interviews, his employers during that time said they did not know of his history in Delaware. They also said they did not know Dudzinski had been sued in 1989 by a young man who claimed he was sexually abused by Dudzinski while Dudzinski was working as a priest. That suit was later settled.

Krebs said no one ever called asking about Dudzinski's work history with the church, even though Dudzinski was hired to work for a private counseling firm and a public social services agency as a counselor for troubled youth. He said church policy is to release details about the 15 priests to prospective employers only if the job involves working with children.

Settled before trial

Dudzinski was born in Wilmington in 1950 and attended high school in Elsmere. He attended Goldey-Beacom College and the University of Baltimore.

He was ordained as a priest April 8, 1978, at St. Michael's Chapel in Maryland and joined the Diocese of Wilmington, which ministers to 193,000 Catholics in Delaware and the Eastern Shore.

His first assignment was to St. Mary Magdalen Church on Concord Pike near Fairfax, where he stayed until 1983, when he was transferred to St. Francis de Sales Church in Salisbury.

The allegations of sexual abuse first came to the attention of then-Wilmington Bishop Robert E. Mulvee in 1985, a spokesman for Mulvee said. Mulvee, who is now bishop of the Diocese of Providence, R.I., met with Dudzinski about the claims and removed him the same day, Providence diocese spokesman Bill Halpin said.

The 1986-1987 Catholic Directory of the Diocese of Wilmington lists Dudzinski as "on sick leave."

In 1989, allegations of abuse surfaced again when he was sued in Virginia by a Delaware teen who claimed that Dudzinski sexually abused him in 1984 and 1985 during overnight trips to Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Va. The trips were taken on Dudzinski's free time and not sanctioned by the church, according to court records. Although some records remain under seal, others reveal that on the advice of his attorney, Dudzinski invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself during a sworn deposition in 1990. He invoked his right when the teen's lawyer, William Artz, asked about sleeping arrangements in the motel room and whether he had engaged in sexual activity with the boy.

Shortly before the trial date, the case was settled, Artz said. As part of the settlement, church officials paid money to the priest's accuser, Krebs said, and paid for Dudzinski's in-patient treatment at a psychiatric center. Krebs would not disclose the amount of the settlement.

A 'bright, gifted person'

After the psychiatric treatment, the church stopped providing any financial support for Dudzinski, Krebs said.

Church officials remained in contact with him over the years, Krebs said, but did not have any authority over him.

In the mid-1990s, Dudzinski went to work for a private counseling agency in Fairfax called Living Free, said Richard Warden, who runs Living Free's business operations. Warden said Dudzinski worked with children while at the agency and left in the late 1990s to finish his doctoral thesis. Warden said there were no complaints about Dudzinski in the years he worked for Living Free.

Fellow counselor Ed Huggins, who has known Dudzinski for many years, said the former minister is an excellent writer and is good at training other counselors.

"Ed is a very bright, gifted person," Huggins said.

Former Living Free counselor Sally Withers said she got to know Dudzinski after she left the company. Withers said that after watching him develop personal relationships with some of his young clients, she warned Dudzinski that such contact was inappropriate for counselors.

"I used to caution him about boundaries," said Withers, a drug addiction counselor in Fairfax, Va. "Meaning that you can't hang out with [adolescent clients] and eat dinner with them, and they shouldn't be coming to your house if you are going to treat them."

Dudzinski heard similar concerns from his supervisors after he went to work as a substance abuse counselor in a juvenile detention center in Fairfax County, outside of Washington D.C., according to the Virginia board, which last year investigated allegations of misconduct against Dudzinski.

When Dudzinski went to work for Fairfax County in January 1999, county officials checked his background but never learned of the allegations that had been made against him in Delaware, said Huggins, who was part of the team that hired Dudzinski. He said he did not know whether anyone contacted Catholic officials in Wilmington about Dudzinski's time in the diocese.

Krebs, the Wilmington Diocese spokesman, said that no one had ever called asking about Dudzinski.

Placed on probation

Not long after he was hired, another counselor who was a former police officer complained about Dudzinski's relationships with children Dudzinski was counseling, Huggins said.

By the end of 2001, Fairfax County officials took action against Dudzinski. Twice in the fall of that year, Dudzinski's supervisor counseled him about getting too close to a child in the unit's treatment program, according to the Virginia board. According to a letter released by the board earlier this year, Dudzinski was fired in December after his supervisor concluded that he violated several of Fairfax County's employment standards, including "engaging in criminal, dishonest, immoral or disgraceful conduct."

Nearly one year later, in October 2002, the Virginia Board of Counseling put Dudzinski on probation after concluding that he had an inappropriate relationship with at least two youngsters he met while working at the juvenile detention center.

The board concluded Dudzinski slept overnight in the same bed with a minor on at least 10 occasions, according to a written order provided by Virginia officials.

Fairfax County police investigated, but the district attorney's office did not charge Dudzinski, police spokeswoman Julie Hersey said.

The top prosecutor in Fairfax County said he does not remember the case and could not say why no charges were filed.

Under the counseling board's order Dudzinski was placed on probation indefinitely in October 2002.

He was required to confine his practice to adults and to work under a board-appointed supervisor. He was also required to submit a research paper on how clients can be harmed when they have personal relationships with a counselor.

Earlier this year, the board decided to reopen Dudzinski's case when it learned about the accusations in Delaware and discovered that he had violated the terms the board had set for his probation, Evelyn B. Brown, the board's executive director, said. Brown would not say how Dudzinski violated his probation.

When board officials began looking into whether Dudzinski should have told the board about the allegations made against him in the 1989 lawsuit, the former priest agreed to give up his counseling license voluntarily, Brown said.

According to board records, Dudzinski said health and financial difficulties made him unable to fulfill the terms of the board's order. That decision ended an inquiry into whether he was fit to be a counselor, she said.

Dudzinski can reapply for his license in three years, Brown said.

 
 

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