Four Priests Who Served Locally Named by Settlement
International Falls Journal
July 7, 2015
Three priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children served in some capacity in International Falls.
A fourth priest had connections to Northome and surrounding areas.
The names and assignment histories of seven priests were released publicly for the first time on Wednesday as part of a settlement in a lawsuit by the St. Paul law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates.
The following are the names of the priests and their terms in the International Falls area:
Thomas Meyer, served as parochial vicar, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 1999 to 2007.
Michael Charland, 70, staffed weekends as spiritual director for Teens Encounter Christ, leading programs and retreats for school teens and college students at Rainy River Community College and in Fort Frances, Ont., in 1977.
Paul Kubat, 82 or 83, who served from 1967 to 196, at St. Thomas, International Falls.
A fourth preist, James V. Fitzgerald, deceased at age 95, worked as pastor at St. Micheal, Northome, and Effie Mission, Big Fork, in 1957; Our Lady of Snows and Effie Mission, Big Fork, 1961; pastor Holy Cross Church, Orr, 1963; pastor St. Micheals Church, Northome, 1968, 1973.
The release of the names is part of a settlement reached in a civil lawsuit brought by "Doe 30" against the Oblates, the Diocese of Duluth and the Diocese of New Ulm. The settlement was reached in April 2015 between Doe 30, and defendant Oblates. The other defendants in the case – the Diocese of Duluth and Diocese of New Ulm - were not part of the settlement, and Doe 30’s case against them is still pending in Ramsey County District Court.
The lawsuit stems from Doe 30’s sexual abuse at a parish in Squaw Lake by Fitzgerald, an Oblate priest, in 1978 when Doe 30 was a minor.
Attorney Mike Finnegan, with Jeff Anderson & Associates, said internal documents on each of the perpetrators released by the Oblates will provide further details of where abuse took place. That information will be released in the next 30 days, he said.
The Oblates released the list of their former employees once it determined in an internal process they had been credibly accused of sexually abusing one or more minors, Finnegan said.
The Rev. Ben Hadrich of St. Thomas in International Falls said he was saddened and angered by the issue.
"This absolutely breaks my heart," he said. "No child or person should ever be hurt by a priest. I prey for justice and truth for the victims."
As a priest, he said the issue is disturbing and it shouldn't color all priests in one category.
"This really sucks for a priest to think a brother priest would - it's infuriating."
Hadrich urged anyone sexually abused, even by a priest, to contact law enforcement to report it. "It's really hurt our church because people often went to a priest or bishop first," he said. "Go to the police first and then talk for spiritual counsel."
That three of the seven priests have connections to International Falls is troubling, Finnegan said.
"We have a concern when three different perpetrators worked in the International Falls area for number of years - that there are people that were hurt and are still suffering from what they went through those years," he said.
Finnegan said survivors of the abuse may not know about a May 25, 2016, deadline set by the Minnesota Legislature in the Child Victims Act to allow Doe 30 and other survivors to come forward, seek justice and get help in healing.
"Seeing some of the people getting some help and their power back - it's amazing," Finnegan said.
The others on the list released Wednesday are Orville Munie and Emile Twardochleb.