Church Officials Accused of Destroying Child Porn Tapes
By John Croman
November 14, 2014
Local Catholic officials have been accused of destroying videotapes that purportedly contained homemade child pornography.
The law firm of Jeff Anderson and Associates on Thursday released a set of documents suggesting church leaders threw out the tapes, allegedly found inside former St. Paul priest Donald Dummer's room. The case dates back to 1997 when Rev. Dummer was assigned to St. Mary's Catholic Church on St. Paul's East Side.
Attorney Mike Finnegan said the paper trail also implies officials in the Vatican's U-S embassy in Washington, D.C. urged the St. Paul Archdiocese to keep the case out of the public eye.
"Instead of reporting this to the police, instead of removing Dummer, they send this stuff back to Archbishop Flynn." Finnegan remarked. "Their concern is about public scandal, and that this might get out."
The files were recently unsealed as part of an out of court settlement in a public nuisance lawsuit Anderson's clients brought against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
An unnamed employee of St. Mary's wrote a letter to the Vatican Embassy, known as the Apostolic Nunciature, in 2002 detailing efforts he'd made years earlier to expose Rev. Dummer. The letter was also signed by the organization known as Catholic Parents OnLine.
The whistleblower wrote that in 1997 he found a videotape in Dummer's room which showed boys, ages 10 to 12, playing basketball in the nude. The worker said he dropped the tape off at Archdiocese headquarters, in the office of then Vicar General Kevin McDonough.
"He got no response. He called McDonough. McDonough didn't do anything about it," Finnegan said, quoting from the letter.
The 2002 letter went on to say that in 1998 the same worker found another tape in Dummer's room, one which depicted older teenage boys having sex. Once again the employee left the tapes in McDonough's office, and called McDonough when he hadn't heard back.
"He asked if he had checked it out, and McDonough said yes, and that he had destroyed the videos," Finnegan said, again referencing the 2002 letter by the church employee.
Dummer, who had previously worked in Crookston and Assumption Church in Richfield, continued working at St. Mary's for another four years after those taped surfaced. According to the correspondence between other clergy, Dummer denied ever possessing any child pornography.
If the tapes were indeed destroyed there's no way for law enforcement to determine whether or not they constituted child pornography as defined by the criminal code. Dummer, who left the priesthood in 2006 and lives in Massachusetts, denied owning any child porn when questioned by church officials in 2002.
McDonough and his attorney did not return calls seeking reaction to the allegations. The Archdiocese issued a statement saying that such a situation wouldn't be handled the same if it happened now.
Tapes sent to Vatican embassy
Dummer, who left the priesthood in 2006, now lives in Massachusetts. He was recently added to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' list of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. That list is not a presumption of guilt, but applies to cases where there are grounds to believe abuse occurred based on evidence in hand.
The whistleblower's 2002 letter to the Vatican Embassy also said that three videotapes were enclosed, all allegedly found in Dummer's room.
The new files include a 2002 letter from Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Apostolic Nuncio or top Vatican diplomat in Washington, addressed to then-Archbishop Harry Flynn in St. Paul. It told Flynn the embassy is returning the whistleblower's letters, including "three videos of a questionable nature," to the Archdiocese.
Montalvo's letter notes that Catholic Parents OnLine has its own website "and thus the potential for public scandal and dissemination of these troubling allegations are evident." Montalvo went on to express hope that Archbishop Flynn wouldn't refer to the embassy in his dealing with the parents group.
Flynn wrote back to Montalvo acknowledging he had received the group's letters and the videotapes. Flynn explained in the letter that the whistleblower has emotional problems and there has been "ongoing agitation" between the accuser and Fr. Dummer.
In reference to the group Catholic Parents OnLine, Flynn wrote, "They are good people but at the same time seem to overreact to the slightest provocation."
Flynn went on to tell the Embassy chief that he would soon be meeting with Dummer and his Superior, Father Joseph Hitpas of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order of priests Dummer belonged to.
In another unsealed letter from 2002, Father Hitpas told Archbishop Flynn, "I will dispose of the tapes." Fr. Hitpas, in the same letter, told Flynn that Fr. Dummer "adamantly denies ever possessing any kind of child pornography."
Patrick Wall, a former priest and member of Anderson's team, said it's impossible for police to see what was on the videotapes in question.
"People try to say that child pornography is a victimless crime, but what about all those poor kids that are in those videos?" Wall remarked. "I don't know if we'll ever have that evidence. I don't know if they've destroyed it all. But those kids were hurt."
Later that year Dummer was reassigned to serve as the Catholic chaplain at Region's Hospital in St. Paul, a post he held until 2006. The unsealed file included letters explaining that Dummer was removed from the priesthood after drawing repeated complaints that he'd been rude and insensitive to hospital patients and their families.
KARE placed calls to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Apostolic Nunciature Thursday, but those inquiries were not answered yet.