Letter Reports on Sexual Abuse in Duluth Diocese

By Craig Lincoln
News Tribune [Duluth MN]
November 17, 2003

A letter, released Sunday to congregations throughout the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, said that 42 people have made allegations of sexual abuse in the diocese since 1950.

The allegations were made against 18 priests out of 350 who have served in the diocese since 1950.

No priests who were accused of sexual abuse are active now, the letter from Bishop Dennis Schnurr said.

Schnurr said the diocese incurred $1.4 million in costs associated with the abuse allegations in settlements, legal costs and care of victims and perpetrators. Insurance paid about $720,000 of those costs.

"While these figures amount to a staggering sum, they pale in comparison to innocent lives hurt by abuse and the mistrust and alienation of so many other Catholics," Schnurr wrote. "I sincerely apologize for the hurt and scandal caused by those who abused their sacred office for sexual gratification."

The News Tribune was unable to contact a diocese spokesperson for comment Sunday.

The diocese put a sexual misconduct policy in place in 1992 to handle sexual abuse allegations, part of a national response to the issue.

Allegations are reviewed by a panel that includes a doctor, a lawyer, a social worker and a psychologist. If the allegation is credible, police are notified and the person involved is put on leave until the case is resolved.

Schnurr's letter said that one priest was exonerated and one allegation was withdrawn. Some other priests had died at the time of the allegations, some had retired and a few had left their positions in response to allegations, although specific numbers weren't released.

The letter reported the result of a John Jay College of Law study of the Duluth diocese. The Catholic Church retained the college to do a nationwide study on the size and scope of sexual abuse by priests since 1950.

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