Two Priests Named by Diocese As Being Suspected of Abuse Have Ties to Steele, Dodge Counties
By Jeffrey Jackson
Owatonna People's Press
April 13, 2015
Two priests — one with ties to both Steele and Dodge counties, the other with ties to Dodge County — were named Friday by the Diocese of Winona as suspected of sexual abuse.
The priests, the Rev. Harold Mountain and the Rev. Thomas Duane, are both dead, and the complaints filed against the two came after they had died. Duane, who retired in 1979, died in 1993. Mountain retired in 1989 and died in 2006.
The accusations against Mountain came in 2011 in a letter from a man who said that when he was in either second or third grade, he was sent to Mountain for a supposed infraction at school. Mountain allegedly forced the boy to pull his pants down and fondled him.
“Due to this incident with Father Mountain, [the man who brought the complaint] has been very angry and estranged from the Church,” diocesan documents say. “He wants to be buried in the Catholic cemetery … and would like some amends from the Church for healing before he dies.”
The documents on file at the diocese have been redacted, so it’s not known where or when the incident allegedly took place.
Mountain served Christ the King Parish in Medford and Corpus Christi from Jan. 30, 1952, to Aug. 5, 1968. He also served at Sacred Heart in Hayfield from Sept. 1, 1947, to June 15, 1950.
Mountain, who was ordained in 1942, served various other roles in his 47 years with the diocese, including assignments with Mater Dolorosa in Madelia, St. Thomas Pro Cathedral in Winona, Precious Blood in LaMoille, Saints Peter and Paul in Hart, the Newman Center in Winona, St. Bernard in Stewartville, St. Casimir in Wells, Immaculate Conception in St. Clair and as Diocesan Director of Blessed Sacrament.
The accusation against Duane came in 2002, when a woman said that she had been molested by the priest in the late 1940s when he was serving as the priest at St. Ignatius Parish in Spring Valley, a position he held from June 3, 1947, to June 30, 1954.
The woman, who described herself as a “grandmother, mother, sister, wife, recovering alcoholic,” told then-Bishop Joseph Harrington in the letter that what Duane did to her affected every area of her life and continued to affect her life to that day she wrote the letter in April 2002.
“As an adolescent, I wondered, ‘What was so very wrong with me that a priest would want to kiss me, touch me and then in public be so cruel to me.’ I was so confused and so fearful and had no one to talk to,” she wrote. “… Marriage, five children, divorce, treatment for alcoholism all impacted in some way by my experience with Father Duane. I have great difficulty yet stepping into the church.”
Duane, who was ordained in 1938, served Sacred Heart Parish in Hayfield from Nov. 14, 1945, to June 3, 1947; St. John in Dodge Center and St. Olaf in Kasson from July 11, 1974, to June 11, 1976; and St. Francis de Sales in Claremont from June 11, 1976, until his retirement in 1979.
He also served in various other capacities in the diocese, including at St. Charles Borromeo in St. Charles, St. Bernard in Stewartville, St. Patrick in LeRoy, St. John the Baptist and Loretto High School in Caledonia, St. Gabriel in Fulda, and as chaplain for Mother Frances Rest Home in Mankato.
Documents also show that he was placed on a leave of absence several times because of his struggles with alcoholism.
Friday’s disclosures were prompted by recently obtained information by the diocese and the review of the diocese’s priest files as part of a settlement in a clergy abuse lawsuit, said the victims’ attorney Mike Finnegan.
“Survivors of child sex abuse often feel that they’re alone and that they’re the only one that were abused by that perpetrator,” Finnegan told Minnesota Public Radio News. “It’s often not until the name and some information about that individual goes out that people have the freedom and are able to get the courage to come forward and break the silence and tell people what happened to them.”
The release of Mountain’s and Duane’s names is part of an ongoing release of names of “credibly accused” priests that began in December 2013 after Ramsey County Judge John Van de North ordered the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona to disclose the names of credibly accused priests on a previously sealed list created several years later.
On that December 2013 list that contained the names of 14 priests, two of the priests — the Rev. Sylvester F. Brown and the Rev. Louis G. Cook — had served in Steele County at some point in their ministries, and three others — the Rev. Joseph C. Cashman, the Rev. John R. Feiten and the Rev. Michael J. Kuisle — had served in Dodge County during their priesthoods. Four of the priests — Brown, Cook, Feite and Kuisle — all died before the diocese released their names.
Cashman, who was born in Owatonna in 1934, had his ministerial privileges suspended in 1992 and currently is in the process of being removed from the priesthood.
Joel Hennessy, a spokesman for the Diocese of Winona, told Minnesota Public Radio News that the diocese does not anticipate any additional disclosures after last week’s naming of Mountain and Duane unless new information comes forward.
“We have completed the review of all our files and disclosed the names that meet the minimum threshold for disclosure,” he said.