A shameful past
By Chelsey Perkins
April 03, 2016
|The Rev. Alfred Longley|
Nearly 50 years ago, a dynamic priest left an impression on parishioners at St. Christopher's Catholic Church in Nisswa.
"Father (Alfred) Longley was a priest who had attracted a bit of a following in that when he showed up at St. Christopher's, he was a dramatic presence," said Rick Herder, a former Lake Shore resident who attended the church as a boy. "He wore colorful garb when he said the Mass. ... He tended to gather a flock of acolytes around him, because he was an outgoing, colorful personality and an intellect. A very bright guy and a raconteur."
Longley was memorable for other, more sinister reasons as well, recorded in a series of documents released as part of a successful lawsuit against the Diocese of Duluth by a victim of sexual abuse. The documents, including official reports from the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, detailed interviews with juveniles staying at Longley's Gull Lake residence, describing wild parties and sexual advances by the priest. Letters to and from the Diocese of Duluth also show church officials were aware of Longley's chronic alcoholism and apparent homosexuality, for which he received treatment at a psychiatric hospital. In one letter, Longley's case was described as a "very long and involved one" by the bishop of the Duluth diocese.
Although Longley was permanently removed from the ministry in March 1968 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Duluth diocese granted Longley permission to celebrate Mass through the early 1970s. He is described as "Father" in all of the released documents, dated between April 1971 and May 1972. Herder, who shared his own experience of a 1970 sexual advance from Longley with the Brainerd Dispatch, recalled Longley serving as a substitute priest at St. Christopher's in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Longley's service at St. Christopher's is not noted on any official documentation released in the lawsuit. A representative from St. Christopher's declined to comment, directing inquiries to the Diocese of Duluth. A Duluth diocese spokesman acknowledged Longley substituted at "parishes near where he lived" while never formally serving as a priest in the diocese.
"In 1970 and 1971, he was still known as Father Longley. As far as I knew, when I had that incident with him, he was still a priest," Herder said.
Although Longley died in 1974, he was not named as a priest with credible accusations of child sexual abuse against him until 2013, when he appeared on a list released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The priest appointed to the St. Christopher's and St. Alice's parishes around the same time—the Rev. Kirby Blanchard—also has credible accusations of child sexual abuse against him, the diocese reported.
Herder's memories of Longley are vivid and demonstrate even at that time, almost a half-century ago, suspicions about the priest's behavior abounded.
"What they (church officials) should have done is they should have called the police," Herder said. "They had enough evidence by 1968 that they knew he was a pedophile. The more I think about this and reflect on it, the angrier I get. Because they knew. They knew."
From seminary to the Deauville
Longley was born in September 1913 and attended The St. Paul Seminary as a young man. He was ordained in 1939, serving his first post as associate priest of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Faribault until 1942. During World War II and for the next decade, Longley served as a military chaplain with the U.S. Army. Between 1952 and 1961, he was a pastor at St. Richard's Catholic Church in Richfield. He then served as a chaplain at the Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis from 1962-64 before spending less than a year as pastor at St. Jude of the Lake Catholic Church in Mahtomedi.
Longley resigned from St. Jude of the Lake and was listed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as "on duty outside diocese" between 1964 and 1972, although records also show he was permanently removed from the ministry in 1968.
This timeline of Longley's service was compiled by Jeff Anderson & Associates, one of the most prominent law firms pursuing civil litigation in clergy sex abuse cases.
When Longley first began living in the Brainerd lakes area is not entirely clear, although an August 1968 commencement program from the University of Notre Dame, where Longley earned a master's degree in theology, lists the priest's address as Brainerd. Longley was in the area as early as May 1968, based upon a wedding announcement in the Brainerd Dispatch in which Longley was listed as performing the ceremony—three months after his permanent removal.
Herder recalled Longley's mother first lived in the home later occupied by Longley on the eastern shore of Gull Lake, on what was once known as Route 6.
"His mother owned the house, and he initially was just spending summers, serving as a priest off and on," Herder said. "And then he started living there full time."
Herder's parents, who owned the Deauville Club (now Zorbaz) on Gull Lake for many years, were well acquainted with Longley through semi-regular church attendance, but also his regular appearances at the bar.
"In the 1960s, the Deauville Club, along with Bar Harbor, were very popular places," Herder said. "I remember reading a review of the nightclub back in the day in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that commented on (Peanuts cartoonist) Charles Schultz being there, for example. Much like Brainerd is today, it's a place that draws sort of an urbane group of tourists and clientele."
The Deauville Club and other nightclubs in the area were infamous for other reasons earlier in their histories—as illegal gambling establishments that were the subject of numerous raids by area and state law enforcement officers.
In the late '60s, Herder, who is now an associate professor of communication studies at Southwest Minnesota State University, often spent time there. His family lived in an apartment on the second floor of the building. He recalled an exchange with Longley at the bar that to him seemed innocent, even helpful.
When Herder was 14 or 15 years old, he sat in the Deauville Club, playing with a guitar his parents had recently bought for him.
"I was terrible with the thing. I didn't stick with it and really learn to play the thing, I was enjoying just plucking along," Herder said.
Longley, who was with a young man at the bar, approached Herder and complimented him on his playing.
"They tried telling me, 'You're very good at this,' which was odd, because I wasn't," Herder said. "They tried to tell me the young man he had with him could teach me guitar lessons."
Later, Herder told his mother about the incident, who reacted strongly to Longley's offer.
"My mother said, 'You will have nothing to do with that man, he's setting you up,'" Herder said. "The more my mother got to know Father Longley, the more she was concerned about his habits."
Herder said it was not unusual for Longley to be accompanied by young, college-aged men, and often these college students attended Mass at St. Christopher's along with those led by Longley at his Gull Lake home, which became known as "Domus David" according to Anderson & Associates.
In the boathouse
About a year later after his mother's death, Longley called Herder's home and asked for help from one of the four Herder boys with moving things at his home. Pinpointing the occasion as late spring, Herder recalled his assistance to Longley occurred shortly after the April 1970 release of the movie "Patton"—relevant because of a claim the priest would make to Herder that day.
Warned by his mother to be careful, Herder volunteered to help along with a friend who'd also grown up in the church. The pair drove to Longley's home, where the priest instructed the boys to move several pieces of furniture and an altar from the boathouse to the main home. Herder said the altar was used when Mass was celebrated at the property.
What happened next to Herder rekindled a suspicion his mother had expressed earlier.
"In his office area, (Longley) had all sorts of pictures on the wall. My friend had gone into the house and I was alone in the office with Father Longley," Herder said.
Longley showed him a photo of a young man who looked like Longley standing next to a general.
"He said, 'I was a chaplain during (World War II), and that's me standing next to Gen. (George) Patton.' He asked, 'Have you seen the movie "Patton"?' I said no. He said in that movie, Gen. Patton prays for snow to come down so that they can take Berlin, so that it would make it easier for the Allied forces to take Berlin. He said, 'I'm the man who said the prayer for Gen. Patton to bring snow down.'"
Herder said he can clearly remember standing in the office, looking at the photo, when Longley leaned in close to his face.
"He said, 'You know, you're a very good-looking young man, don't you?'" Herder said. "My friend came walking into the room and I had extricated myself from him. I just said something about what do we need to move next. At the time, it just seemed awkward. Here's my priest, saying something to me that sounds seductive. ... It didn't take me long to figure out, oh crap, that's what's going on."
Herder said for 20 years, he believed Longley's story about praying for Gen. Patton, until he finally saw the movie and looked into it further.
"I looked up the story, and he wasn't the person. He just made that (stuff) up. He was being seductive," Herder said.
Later that year in the fall, Longley again asked for Herder's help to remove docks from the lake.
"My mother said, 'There's no way in hell.' I'd told her about it, and she said, 'You leave that man alone, don't go near him,'" Herder said. "Since I wasn't touched, this has not been a traumatizing experience for me, which is probably why I don't have a problem talking about it. It was just a very strange experience."
'Very long and involved' case
Herder was by no means the only juvenile Longley allegedly attempted to seduce.
The trail of documentation of church officials' knowledge of credible claims of sexual abuse against Longley begins with an April 19, 1971, letter, the first of several documents released as part of a successful sexual abuse lawsuit against the Duluth diocese. The letter was addressed to four church officials—including Bishop Paul Anderson of the Duluth diocese and two local priests—from Dr. John A. Docherty of the Metropolitan Psychiatric Clinic in Minneapolis.
Docherty explained Longley had asked him to contact the church officials while receiving in-patient treatment "regarding his problems with alcohol and homosexuality."
"I am satisfied that Father Longely (sic) is working hard at his problem, that he appears to be taking all necessary steps to control it, and that I am fairly confident that the outcome will be favorable," Docherty wrote.
In an April 22 response to Docherty, Anderson thanked the doctor for the letter and stated he was happy Longley was receiving treatment.
"His case is a very long and involved one, but we all hope that there may be some possibility of his learning control," the bishop wrote.
Sometime that same spring, a St. Paul father and his son, a student at the Minnesota Learning Center at the Brainerd State Hospital, encountered Longley at what they believed was a camp he ran at his home. The encounter is detailed in a letter to Anderson from the father, whose name is redacted, written nearly a year later. The father was prompted to write the April 1972 letter, he explained, because law enforcement officers in Brainerd were pursuing a case against Longley and wished for his testimony.
"Previous efforts to contact you through the St. Paul archdiocese ... have been fruitless, so I am contacting you directly hoping that you can remedy the situation without the law having to become involved," the letter stated. "... As a Catholic layman, I would prefer that the matter be handled quietly without unfavorable publicity."
The encounter described in the letter—also recounted by Brainerd Police Officer Glen Knight in a report to the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office—shows Longley working to convince the man's son to live at "the camp." Knight interviewed the boy, who was also a member of Knight's Explorer Scout post, and described his testimony as very believable.
"Father Longley took (name redacted) into another room of his house and out of sight of his father. At this time, Father Longley began running his hands up and down the boy's body, including the boy's private parts. Father Longley tried to convince both the boy and the father that the boy should stay their (sic) for awhile. Father Longley then took the boy into the bedroom on the pretense that he was showing the boy where he would be staying. Again he ran his hands all over the boy's body, including his private parts."
Although the boy initially responded he would stay at Longley's house because he said he was scared, the boy's father would not allow it after hearing the boy's story, Knight wrote. Still, Longley was persistent—calling the boy's father at his home and even going so far as to attempt to volunteer at the Minnesota Learning Center while specifically requesting one-on-one interaction with the boy.
"This would have allowed him to take the boy to his home at any time," Knight wrote. "Father Longley's request was turned down, but the MLC (Minnesota Learning Center) still has a copy of this request in writing."
Three weeks later, Bishop Anderson responded to the boy's father, noting "many calls and so much confusion on the matter during the past few weeks." Anderson went on to state Longley was actually the responsibility of the Twin Cities archdiocese, not Duluth.
"He simply lived in this diocese on Gull Lake," Anderson wrote. "My latest information is that he is in a hospital in the Twin Cities and the places at the lake have been closed."
Sheriff investigates 'Domus David'
The interview of the boy conducted by Knight was one of six statements acquired from juveniles in sheriff's office documents, which were released as part of the same lawsuit in late 2015 alongside an April 18, 1972, criminal investigation of Longley into his contribution to the delinquency of minors.
In answers to sheriff's deputies, the 16- and 17-year-old juveniles described Longley's home as a decadent party house where as many as 20 juveniles lived at any given time. Longley supplied them with alcohol, pills and marijuana, the interviewees said, and several described instances of Longley propositioning them for cuddling or groping their genitals.
According to these statements, Longley was also the primary caregiver of a 27-year-old ward from Dakota County, who he allegedly was very abusive toward.
The following are direct quotes—with some spellings corrected—from the juveniles' statements given to the sheriff's office between April 13-18, 1972:
• "Once he woke me up and wanted (me) to come upstairs. ... He said that he had a disease from the war, and that he got chills, and he wanted me to get into bed with him and hug his back. He then grabbed me by the penis and I grabbed his hand and pushed him away."
• "He was always after me to go into the sauna with him, and he was always trying to hug me, and one other time he tried to pull me into bed."
• "He held Mass at his place last Sunday and baptized (name redacted) and he is planning on having services in his yard this summer. ... I know for sure he has been disrobed, and is no longer officially a priest."
• "During this time there were between 15 and 20 kids that stayed at this place, eating and sleeping, and a lot of drinking. ... There was an extreme amount of drinking going on among juveniles and minors alike, and some was furnished by Longley. When I first came, he bought a case of wine and two cases of beer that he got at the Nisswa liquor store."
• "He tells us we can have parties and we invite whoever we want, and some of the parties he furnishes some of the liquor. He is thinking about throwing keg parties now and charging admission."
• "He has given me dexedrine. He has a cabinet full of pills, but I do not know what it all is. And I have smoked marijuana with him."
• "Once I had a headache. He gave me two blue and white capsules, and I took them both and I was really dazed, just like I was really drunk."
• "He has a ward ... that is 27 years old and has the mind of a 12-year-old, and he treats him like a dog and uses language that should not be used by anybody, let alone a supposed priest. The reason that I am giving this statement is I feel that Father Longley needs psychiatric and mental treatment, as well as treatment for alcoholism. He needs help."
• "Longley treats him (the ward) like dirt. About two weeks ago, he wanted us to take (name redacted)'s pants down and beat him, send him to bed, because (name redacted) had lied to him."
Lawsuits and bankruptcies
Both the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Duluth filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015 following numerous civil lawsuits claiming child sexual abuse. A deadline in August 2015 was set for victims wishing to file a claim against the Archdiocese, although no such deadline has yet been imposed in the case of the Diocese of Duluth.
A Minnesota law passed in 2013, known as the Child Victims Act, allows a three-year window during which victims of child sexual abuse—even those whose statute of limitations may have passed—are able to file civil claims against their abusers. This means claims can be filed through May 25.
Multiple lawsuits against Catholic dioceses across the nation are ongoing and lists of priests with credible accusations of sexual abuse continue to be released. The Diocese of New Ulm released a new list of names just Tuesday.
Longley's files, along with those of three others, are the first ones released by the Diocese of Duluth of the 31 credibly accused priests it listed. Attorneys have called on the diocese to continue releasing additional files, shedding light on information kept from the public eye for years and even decades.
A timeline of the Rev. Alfred Longley
Sep. 7, 1913—Born.
1933-39—Attended St. Paul Seminary.
1939-42—Served as associate priest, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Faribault.
1942-52—Served as military chaplain, U.S. Army.
1952-61—Served as pastor, St. Richard's Catholic Church in Richfield.
1962-64—Served as chaplain, Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis.
1964—Served as pastor, St. Jude of the Lake Catholic Church in Mahtomedi.
Approx. 1964-72—Granted permission from the Diocese of Duluth to celebrate Mass.
March 1968—Permanently removed from ministry by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
May 18, 1968—Officiated wedding at St. Christopher's Church in Nisswa.
Aug. 2, 1968—Graduated from the University of Notre Dame, earning a master of arts degree in theology.
Approx. April 1970—Allegedly propositioned Rick Herder, who was helping move furniture at his home.
April 19, 1971—Letter from Metropolitan Psychiatric Clinic to Bishop Paul Anderson of Duluth discussed Longley's treatment for homosexuality and alcoholism.
April 22, 1971—Letter from bishop of Duluth acknowledging receipt of letter and that Longley's case is a "very long and involved one."
April 18, 1972—Longley investigated for contributing to delinquency of minors by the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office.
April 19, 1972—Letter from juvenile's father in St. Paul to Bishop Anderson about a visit to Longley's "camp" the previous spring. His son was a student at the Minnesota Learning Center at the Brainerd State Hospital. The man asked for help before "the law" became involved.
May 6, 1972—Letter from Anderson to father stated Longley is actually a priest of the Twin Cities archdiocese, not Duluth. Said the latest information was Longley was in a hospital in the Twin Cities and the lake places were closed.