Woman Accuses Former Pastor of Sexual Misconduct
A Lawsuit Alleges Monsignor Louis W. Dunn Initiated a Sexual Relationship with a Charlestown Woman When She Was a Teenager
By Richard C. Dujardin
March 9, 1995
A 44-year-old Charlestown woman has filed a lawsuit accusing Monsignor Louis W. Dunn, former pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence, of sexually abusing and otherwise exploiting her when she was a teenage parishioner.
In the suit filed yesterday in Superior Court, Phyllis M. Hutnak alleged that Monsignor Dunn, 74, initiated "a relationship" with her on the premises of the church when she was 17 and for some time thereafter, and "exploited the power" of his assigned position to encourage her to consume alcoholic beverages. It says he performed "lewd and lascivious acts to and/or with" her and had sexual intercourse with her without her "valid or knowledgeable consent."
"In public he appeared to be a model priest - humble, honest, charismatic, and joyful - a friend to many families," Hutnak declared in a statement that she read to reporters on the steps of the Superior Court on Benefit Street, with her husband, children and other friends and relatives standing nearby. "In private he was a predator looking for more young victims to sexually exploit. Louis Ward Dunn's behavior is despicable and an embarrassment to the priesthood. Shame on the bishop who lets him go unpunished."
Monsignor Dunn was pastor of St. Thomas parish for 28 years until February 1994, when Bishop Louis E. Gelineau ordered him placed on administrative leave. At the time, Bishop Gelineau said he had taken the action after learning that a woman, unnamed, had accused the priest of sexual misconduct; the bishop said the matter was being investigated by the diocese's education and compliance coordinator for sexual concerns, former Massachusetts State Police Lt. Robert McCarthy.
In a phone interview yesterday - from the home of Sara and Frank Fitzpatrick, leaders of a support group for victims of clergy abuse - Phyllis Hutnak said she is not the woman whose complaint led to Monsignor Dunn's removal.
Neither, she said, had she talked with anyone in the diocese about the allegations.
In fact, she said, it was only last spring that she came to "fully realize" that she too had been "misled" by the priest and sexually exploited.
Monsignor Dunn was officially retired and given the title pastor emeritus last June, four months after being placed on leave. According to the diocese, he is now a part-time resident of St. John Vianney Residence for Retired Priests, on Mount Pleasant Avenue. Attempts to reach him yesterday were unsuccessful.
Diocesan spokesman William G. Halpin said in a statement yesterday that the diocese's investigator has tried to interview people in connection with complaints against Monsignor Dunn but has been rebuffed.
"Bishop Gelineau offers his prayers for Monsignor Dunn and anyone who may have been hurt by these alleged incidents," Halpin said. "As of this morning we had no forewarning of this lawsuit, nor have we yet seen the complaint or the materials given by the plaintiffs to the news media. Since this matter is apparently in litigation, we shall have no further comment."
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