Accused Minnesota Priests Still Working
By Rick Linsk and Charles Laszewski
May 26, 2002
At least three priests with documented records of sexual misconduct or who settled lawsuits over accusations of sexual abuse are still working in Twin Cities pulpits or archdiocesan positions.
One other was a parish priest until recently. And two others, sued in Minnesota over sexual abuse allegations, have relocated to other states, where one is an associate pastor and the other was the subject of a recent warning by church officials.
Not all the cases involved children, but together they raise questions about the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' carefully phrased policy on how priests are employed after abuse allegations.
The group includes: * An associate pastor in Roseville who was determined by the archdiocese to have had a series of sexual affairs with adult women and was accused of making sexual advances toward two teen-age girls at an Edina church in the 1960s.
The Rev. Kevin McDonough, the archdiocesan vicar general, said in 1998 that in the previous 50 years, 15 priests in the archdiocese had been "credibly accused" of molesting children, and 50 priests had sexually exploited adults. Last month, McDonough said those numbers have not changed significantly. Archdiocese officials did not return repeated phone calls last week for this article.
One observer believes those figures reflect only a fraction of local abuse cases. "They're both very low. I'd at least double that," said Walter H. Bera, a Minneapolis psychologist who counsels sexual assault victims and has written books on clergy abuse.
The Pioneer Press compiled a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct and found their names in state or national Catholic directories, church Web sites and church bulletins.
The discoveries upset people who say they were assaulted. But at least one priest said the spotlight is unfair.
"I think this should be dropped," said the Rev. Gilbert DeSutter, the retiree in Arizona. "You are presuming we are guilty, and the courts didn't say that. When you bring it back up you are hurting everybody else, including me. I don't think the truth demands that."
SERIES OF AFFAIRS
This year, as church abuse scandals erupted from Boston to Los Angeles, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis took comfort from having dealt with similar uproars a decade ago. One case was that of James Porter, accused of molesting 21 boys while serving as a priest in Bemidji. Porter was transferred to Minnesota after previous abuse of dozens of boys in the 1950s and 1960s in Massachusetts. He is now serving an 18-year prison sentence in Massachusetts for child sexual abuse.
In March, the Twin Cities archdiocese announced it had "no known child abuse offenders serving in parish ministry."
A "known abuser" includes any priest who settled a complaint or abuse lawsuit, McDonough said more recently.
Some of the clerics accused over the years have apparently left the vocation. Others retired or were moved to administrative positions. In a statement published last week in the Catholic Spirit newspaper, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn said two priests who molested children were working for the archdiocese in administrative positions.
But others returned to the pulpit.
One is the Rev. Richard H. Jeub, 62, associate pastor for the past few years at St. Rose of Lima Church in Roseville.
One woman, a health care professional from Edina, reached a settlement with Jeub, her parish and the archdiocese over abuse she says occurred in 1969. The woman said Jeub kissed her, touched her inappropriately and repeatedly made remarks about her body while she was a "naive" 15-year-old and he was associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Edina.
A friend of hers leveled even harsher allegations against Jeub. That woman, identified in a lawsuit as "Mary Jane Doe," charged that Jeub sexually abused her from 1967 to 1970 while she was an adolescent at the Edina church. Jeub denied it.
The woman, in a recent interview, said she turned down a $125,000 settlement offer and demanded a trial. "I wanted his collar," she said. In a surprise verdict, a jury sided with the priest, finding no abuse had occurred.
The lawsuit led to disclosure of even more explosive information: archdiocese records showing that the priest had engaged in a series of illicit affairs with adult women in his parishes.
Jeub could not be reached for comment for this story. The Rev. Walter Sochacki, the church's pastor, referred questions to the archdiocese.
In January 1970, Jeub was transferred from Our Lady of Grace to a church in St. Paul. As his career continued, two things became clear to higher-ups, according to archdiocesan documents in court files: The priest was a creative and intelligent man. He also took advantage of vulnerable women.
McDonough, the point man for clergy abuse complaints, wrote in a 1991 letter to a job-placement service that Jeub had "a history of exploitative sexual relations with adult women."
The archdiocese sent Jeub to St. Luke Institute, the Catholic Church-affiliated facility in Maryland that treats priests for sexual compulsions, in 1990. A psychiatrist there wrote that Jeub had been sexually active with several women, including a nun he was counseling, a blind woman he was taking care of, a student nurse and the nurse's friend, whom he was counseling. In addition, while serving as a hospital chaplain Jeub befriended the family of a heart attack victim and eventually had a sexual relationship with the patient's wife.
But after six months at St. Luke's, Jeub was a "changed man," McDonough wrote at the time. The archdiocese kept the priest out of full-time parish work from 1990 to 1995.
The two women whose accusations date to their teens said recently that they were shocked to learn Jeub was a pastor again.
"Has everybody in (that) parish been told that this man had been sexually exploitative with vulnerable adults and also minors?" the Edina woman said. "If they've done all that, then I guess so be it."
TROUBLE IN POOL
It took only one day in 1977 for the Rev. Jerome C. Kern to alter 15-year-old Alan Michaud's life.
Still, until February, when he took a medical disability retirement, Kern was an associate pastor at St. Peter Catholic Church in Forest Lake. The parish also runs a K-6 grade school. Kern said in a brief telephone interview that "people" were aware of his background.
Michaud was with a group of Catholic Boy Scouts visiting the St. Paul Seminary. Kern, who was one of the chaperones at the seminary, did not know Michaud. In a sauna, the priest touched him in the groin area, Michaud says.
Minutes later, while the boys were swimming, Kern trapped Michaud at one end of the pool and fondled him for about 45 minutes, Michaud says. Looking back, he recalls that the experience left him overwhelmed with guilt, pleasure and numbness. He repressed the memory for years, but it affected his life in significant ways, Michaud said.
Kern, reached by phone last week, refused to discuss the allegations.
In 1993, Michaud identified Kern as the "Father Jerry" who had abused him years earlier. Michaud arranged a meeting with McDonough, the vicar general. McDonough shared an embarrassing fact: The archdiocese had a file on Kern dating back to 1969, when the priest was accused of grabbing the genitals of two boys from St. Paul. In fact, Kern had been transferred out of his St. Paul parish after complaints to the archdiocese from the boys' mothers.
Michaud filed suit. In a settlement, he says, he was promised Kern would never be in another parish nor around children.
When he was informed that Kern, now 61, was working in a parish until recently, Michaud said the news "greatly upset" him. "It blows my mind. There is a lot of 'Blame the victim.' " He is unsympathetic to the church argument that by retaining priests, it helped keep them from molesting again.
"Isn't that what prisons are for?" he asks.
Pierre Dufresne was an altar boy at St. Williams Catholic Church in Fridley in the late 1970s. The Rev. Gilbert DeSutter, the head pastor, was a friend of the family.
When Dufresne was about 11, the priest offered to take the boy to a cabin in Prior Lake to water ski. In court papers years later, Dufresne alleged the priest urged him to remove his swimsuit in a sauna; pressured him into showering together; and insisted the boy sleep in his bed.
"That's a lie," said DeSutter, now 74 and retired in Arizona.
The priest said he didn't remember asking Dufresne to be naked in the sauna, said they couldn't have showered together because it was too small, and said there were three beds in the cabin and DeSutter slept alone in one of those.
Years after the incident, in 1993, Dufresne told his father what had happened, according to court files. Gerard Dufresne conveyed his son's experience to McDonough, demanding an apology and assurance the priest would be kept away from adolescents. McDonough revealed that officials had a file on the priest regarding other sexual misconduct allegations. Later, he told them DeSutter would be retired by that June.
But six years later, the Dufresnes learned that DeSutter was saying Mass at a church in Faribault. Archbishop Flynn, responding to an angry letter from Gerard Dufresne, replied that the priest had completed counseling and was considered a safe candidate for weekend substitute duties, but said even that ended in 1998.
St. Paul lawyer Jeff Anderson filed two lawsuits against DeSutter in 1999. Pierre Dufresne, who was angry that DeSutter was allowed to continue to serve as a priest, brought one of those suits. The other was filed on behalf of a man who said the priest sexually abused him in 1992 at St. Michael's Church in Prior Lake.
That man, who sued under the pseudonym John Doe, said in an interview that at age 31, he approached DeSutter for counseling. They would meet, usually in the church sacristy. At first, DeSutter would hug him, he said. Then it progressed to longer hugs and then kisses on the lips, which the man said DeSutter called "holy kisses."
Finally, he said, DeSutter reached into his pants and grabbed his genitals.
"He was manipulating me, keeping me coming back and pursuing his own agenda," the man said. "There is not biblical grounds for grabbing the genitals."
DeSutter said he hugged everybody, something that was common then but that nobody does now. He denied kissing or groping the man.
Both civil cases were settled out of court, with the men receiving payments and - they say - assurance from the archdiocese that DeSutter would not be allowed to function as a priest in any church.
A third man, Michael P. Ivers, filed a lawsuit in 1996 contending DeSutter had made "inappropriate sexual advances" toward him in 1978. A court dismissed the lawsuit, saying it was filed too late.
In the last few years, DeSutter moved from Minnesota to Arizona. The Diocese of Phoenix took notice of his arrival. In a newsletter published for priests, the diocese noted that DeSutter was "a retired priest from the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis S and may not exercise public ministry," and that he lacked authorization from either archdiocese to do so.
DeSutter said he is not working as a priest.
CONTACT FOR YEARS
Another priest to relocate from Minnesota after settling a sexual misconduct lawsuit is the Rev. Christopher Panagoplos, the associate pastor at St. Patrick Church in Mount Dora, Fla. Panagoplos, a Franciscan priest, was sued in 1992 by a woman who said he started a sexual relationship with her around 1977 at St. Bridget's Church in Minneapolis.
The woman, identified in the lawsuit as "Jane I. I. Doe," said the counseling and the sexual relationship started shortly after the death of her father and her separation from her husband. In court documents, the woman said she disclosed the alleged abuse to another priest at St. Bridget's, who told her to keep the story secret. The sexual contact continued for years, even after Panagoplos was transferred to a parish outside Minnesota, she said.
Panagoplos, who was ordained in 1976, declined to discuss the case or his current status.
Another local priest with lawsuits in his past was assigned to an archdiocesan administrative position. The Rev. Joseph Wajda, the subject of two lawsuits in the late 1980s alleging abuse of teen-age boys, is the judicial vicar of the archdiocese's Metropolitan Tribunal. The tribunal exercises judicial authority under church law to rule on matters such as annulments of marriage.
The lawsuits against Wajda were brought in 1989 by two men who said they were abused while Wajda was at St. Raphael's Church in Crystal. In a case that was settled for an undisclosed sum in 1990, one man said he was 12 years old when the alleged abuse took place in 1973. The other was 16 years old when the alleged abuse occurred in 1974.
In a column published in the current Catholic Spirit, the archdiocese's newspaper, Archbishop Flynn defended the decision to retain Wajda and two other criminally convicted priests, the Revs. Gilbert Gustafson and Michael Stevens.
Stevens works on the archdiocese's computer services team. Gustafson does research and is an aide to archdiocesan administrators, but it was his activity serving Mass at a monastery in Bloomington that drew media attention last week. (See accompanying article.) But moving abusers to non-parish positions still doesn't satisfy some of the church's critics. They say abusers should be kicked out of the priesthood, not cloistered or given administrative jobs.
"I say to the church, You can't have it both ways," said one of Jeub's accusers, the Edina woman. "You can't keep these perpetrators and yet say to the victims, 'We really understand.' "
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