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  Retired Bishop Accused of Abuse
Archdiocese Discloses Investigation; Priest Says, 'I Totally Deny' Allegations

By Kavita Kumar
Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN]
May 8, 2002

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is investigating allegations that a retired bishop fondled an altar boy at a south Minneapolis church in the 1950s, church officials said Tuesday.

The Rev. Paul V. Dudley, retired bishop of the Sioux Falls, S.D., Diocese and a former priest at various Twin Cities parishes, said Tuesday night that he strongly denies the accusations.

"I totally deny these allegations. They are brutally unfounded," he said by phone from his home in Northfield. "I'm going to do everything I can to prove my innocence."

The alleged victim, Michael Flaherty, 58, of Savage, put leaflets on parishioners' cars Sunday morning at Annunciation Church, where Dudley was priest at the time the alleged incidents happened.

"I just can't live without telling about it anymore," Flaherty said Tuesday night. "Dealing with it has put me through a life of hell."

Flaherty said Dudley fondled him four times when he was 11 or 12 years old and attended the church's school. The incidents took place, he said, in the rectory, in a boiler room and in other places at the school.

He approached the archdiocese in February. He said he felt frustrated that church officials weren't doing anything about his allegations, so he decided to distribute about 50 handwritten fliers.

The archdiocese has hired an independent investigator to look into the case.

This case is unusual in that the archdiocese usually only discloses sexual-misconduct accusations against its priests after they have been investigated and found to be true.

But the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese, said this accusation is being publicized before the investigation is concluded because the alleged victim had distributed the fliers, generating concern from Annunciation parishioners and others.

The accusation comes amid a nationwide string of highly publicized sex-abuse cases involving members of the clergy and acknowledgment that some have been covered up by church officials.

In a letter Dudley sent to Archbishop Harry Flynn on Monday, he said he thought it best to withdraw from "any priestly ministry" until the investigation is concluded "due to the great publicity given to priests and bishops accused of sexual abuse."

Although retired, Dudley, 75, occasionally has provided service in ceremonial capacities.

"I have never abused [Flaherty] or anyone else!" Dudley wrote to Flynn.

The Star Tribune is naming Dudley, who has not been charged with any crimes, because the archdiocese identified him at a news conference Tuesday.

It is the second case this year involving a bishop from the Upper Midwest. In March, two archbishops confirmed that in the mid-1990s they were involved in a legal settlement of a claim that Bishop Robert Brom coerced a seminarian into having sex when Brom was bishop of Duluth. However, the former seminarian who leveled the charges retracted them after reaching a settlement that provided him with a sum less than $100,000, Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage, Alaska, told the Boston Globe.

At the time of the agreement, Schwietz was bishop of Duluth.

A dead-end road

After the fourth alleged incident of sexual abuse, Flaherty said he told Dudley to leave him alone. That led to physical and mental abuse by Dudley, he said.

"I couldn't tell my parents _ they thought the priests were God," Flaherty said. "And you didn't hear of" sexual abuse by clergy members back then.

Flaherty said the incidents led him down a dead-end road _ including problems with drugs and alcohol, a burglary conviction in 1969 that led to a two-year prison sentence, a divorce and a poor relationship with his two children.

In December, he said, he tried to commit suicide. Finally, at a friend's prodding, he decided to approach the archdiocese.

"I just hope it helps other people," he said. "It doesn't help me much."

Flaherty said he'd like to hear Dudley admit to the accusations.

Dudley said that he doesn't remember his accuser. "I don't know anything about him. I know that name, but I wouldn't have the slightest idea who he is," he said, adding that he was at the church decades ago.

Dudley referred specific questions to his attorney.

In March, the archdiocese hired a private investigator, retired Minnetonka Police Chief Richard Setter, to look into the allegations, McDonough said, adding that "we know establishing the truth" after so many years will be difficult.

Reached at his home, Setter referred questions to the archdiocese.

Archbishop Flynn, who was not at the news conference because he is leading a retreat this week in Rockford, Ill., said in a statement: "In keeping with our stance on zero tolerance, it is important that we investigate all allegations regardless of who they are against. The victims have a right to this process, as do those who have been accused."

Flynn is head of a key national committee on sex abuse that will make a recommendation in June to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A second complaint

In 1999, the archdiocese also received a complaint against Dudley from a woman who alleged he abused her in the 1970s at Our Lady of the Catholic Church in Mound. The archdiocese tried to follow up, but was unable to contact her, McDonough said.

"There was insufficient evidence to support the misconduct charge," he continued.

Dudley started his career at Annunciation, McDonough said. He also was the founding pastor of St. Edward's Catholic Church in Bloomington and St. Dominic's Church in Northfield.

He was an auxiliary bishop in St. Paul before becoming bishop of the Sioux Falls Diocese, where he served for 17 years. He resigned in 1995 and moved back to the Twin Cities.

Dudley's brother, John, who also lives in Northfield, said the allegations came as a shock to him and his family.

"He is innocent and I'm sick and tired of this kind of stuff," John Dudley said. "It's untrue and will be found untrue."

He added, "He's an innocent man, and you're trying to crucify him."

McDonough said the archdiocese has been in contact with the Hennepin County attorney's office about the case. County Attorney Amy Klobuchar described those talks as very general. Klobuchar also said the statute of limitations for sex cases has changed a number of times over the years.

"We will review it if and when a case is referred to our office," she said.

_ Kavita Kumar is at kkumar@startribune.com. Staff writer Margaret Zack contributed to this report.

Bishop's letter

Dear Archbishop Flynn, Fr. Kevin McDonough just called me to inform me that a [deletion] accuses me of abusing him sexually while I served as a parish priest at Annunciation. I can tell you, Archbishop, that I have NEVER abused a [deletion] or anyone else! It is my understanding that he or someone else placed fliers on cars at Annunciation parish this past Sunday, with this accusation.

Archbishop, due to the great publicity given to priests and bishops accused of sexual abuse, I consider it best to withdraw from any priestly ministry until my innocence is proven. I am determined to take whatever action is necessary to prove beyond any doubt that this accusation is an outright lie! I shall greatly appreciate your wisdom, guidance and prayers.

It saddens me, too, Archbishop, that this unjust accusation, like the previous one, must cause you and others I admire great pain.

Archbishop, I urge the Archdiocese to turn this false accusation over to civil authorities immediately, requesting them to thoroughly investigate this allegation.

Respectfully yours,
Paul V. Dudley

 
 

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