Msgr. Louis Ward Dunn; Convicted in 1982 Rape
April 20, 2001
Providence - Monsignor Louis Ward Dunn, the Roman Catholic priest convicted of raping a sexual-abuse victim in 1982 after she asked him for counseling, has died.
Monsignor Dunn died Wednesday at Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, hospital spokesman Jeff Swallow said. The priest's funeral yesterday was private.
"We pray for Monsignor Dunn, as we do for all our dead, that God will give him a merciful judgment and grant him eternal rest," the Diocese of Providence said in a statement.
Monsignor Dunn was given a 10-year suspended sentence during an emotional court hearing in 1999, in which prosecutors asked that he serve time in prison. Then 79, Monsignor Dunn pleaded with the judge for mercy, calling himself a broken and humiliated man who had committed "a terrible breach of trust."
The priest's court case dragged on for nearly four years. Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato convicted Monsignor Dunn, then overturned his own verdict after receiving more than 80 letters from the priest's supporters.
Fortunato said he concluded from the letters that the defense had failed to call key character witnesses. The state Supreme Court later reinstated Monsignor Dunn's conviction.
At sentencing, Fortunato noted Monsignor Dunn's failing health when he gave the priest a suspended sentence. The monsignor suffered from senile dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments.
Monsignor Dunn, the former pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence, was ordered to register as a sex offender and remain at St. Antoine's Home in North Smithfield.
Fortunato was not at work yesterday and not be reached for comment, the Superior Court clerk's office said.
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