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  Bagley Priest Resigns
Boyd Cites 'Gossip' over 1984 Child Pornography Conviction

By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
July 18, 2003

A Bagley, Minn., Catholic priest resigned suddenly Thursday, saying "innuendo and gossip" related to his 1984 conviction on child pornography possession have destroyed his credibility as a minister.

The Rev. Rick Boyd offered his resignation Thursday to Bishop Victor Balke in the diocese office in Crookston, and it was accepted with regret, said Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, who as vicar general is second in charge in the diocese covering northwest Minnesota.

Boyd, 52, has been priest at St. Mary's in Fosston, Minn., and St. Joseph's in Bagley, Minn., for two years. He served in Park Rapids, Minn., for 11 years and Middle River, Minn., for three years.

However, recent concern from some parishioners centered on Boyd's 1984 conviction for possessing child pornography while serving as a priest at Sacred Heart in East Grand Forks led to Thursday's resignation.

A handful of the concerned parishioners even contacted law enforcement officials in recent days.

Undersheriff Lyle Culligan of the Clearwater County Sheriff's Department in Bagley said Thursday that his department is looking into allegations voiced by some parishioners.

A laptop computer given by Boyd to a teenager in Fosston was turned into his department by the teen's parents, Culligan said.

But there is not a criminal investigation of Boyd at this time, Culligan said.

Boyd spoke at length Thursday with a Herald reporter in Grundhaus' office, saying that groundless accusations made by some have forced him to leave the work that he loves.

"I feel like I'm a victim here," he said.

Happens fast

Cathy Godtland, Fosston, contacted the Herald this week to say she and others had concerns about Boyd for at least a year. She first wrote the bishop about it more than a year ago, she said.

No actual wrongdoing is cited by Boyd's critics. But recent national news of sexual abuse by priests, along with their learning of Boyd's 1984 conviction, and other concerns made him and others seek action, said Tim Arneson, a parishioner in Bagley.

Last week, Grundhaus met with some of the parishioners to hear their concerns. Sunday, Bishop Balke said Mass at both churches and met afterward with parishioners to talk about Boyd.

1984 conviction

In October 1984, after an investigation that included state law enforcement and U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Customs, Boyd was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography.

He pleaded guilty to possessing what he estimated as 20 magazines showing boys under 18 engaged in a variety of sexual acts.

He was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to "undergo such treatment or therapy program that is provided and is required of you by your bishop and your church," ordered Judge Russell Anderson.

Boyd fully complied with the sentence, Grundhaus said. Balke was not available Thursday for comment but told the Herald several years ago that Boyd successfully underwent treatment and has since served as a good priest.

Grundhaus said there has never been any evidence that Boyd has victimized anyone, but that to allay parishioners' concerns, the bishop accepted Boyd's resignation.

Parishioners' fears

But Ann Anderson, a member of the Bagley parish, said despite Boyd's resignation, she and others fear a coverup by diocesan officials.

Anderson said Bishop Balke was "intimidating and demeaning" to her when she raised concerns during a parish meeting Sunday after Mass. She is bothered by the fact that she and others weren't told of Boyd's 1984 conviction when he came to Bagley two years ago, Anderson said.

She said Balke this week "ordered her" not to talk to other people about this, Anderson said.

She's concerned that Balke seemed to downplay Boyd's conviction.

Experts on church law say there's no universal policy on how to handle a situation such as Boyd's. Across the Red River, in fact, in the Fargo diocese, a priest who did what Boyd did in 1984 would be treated quite differently, a senior church official said.

Monsignor Wendelyn Vetter, who for 16 years until last year was vicar general of the Fargo diocese covering eastern North Dakota, said Thursday that a priest convicted of possessing child pornography, even 19 years ago, would not be allowed to serve a parish in the diocese.

Vetter has been one of the top officials handling sexual abuse cases in the Fargo diocese. He drafted the diocese's policy on the topic nearly 20 years ago.

Boyd praised

Boyd was a good priest during his 11 years at St. Peter's in Park Rapids, said Candy Weinzierl, a close friend of her former pastor.

"He helped me in my spiritual development, and I learned a lot about the Catholic church," she said Thursday.

She and her husband, Jim, have two sons who were teenagers when Boyd was a priest in Park Rapids, and there was never a problem, Weinzierl said. "He came to our house for Easter dinner," she said.

Boyd said he just wants to serve the diocese in whatever way the bishop wants and said he learned to be open about his past mistakes.

"This is just so frustrating to me because there's nothing to it, to any of it," he said of the recent complaints. "I have a right to my good name. If you have evidence, show it. If not, then let me be."

Boyd said his problem with pornography two decades ago stemmed from being a sexual abuse victim himself.

From the age of 11 to 13, he was sexually abused by a man in his Detroit neighborhood who paid him money, Boyd said.

Of his 1984 conviction, Boyd said "What I did was wrong. But what happened afterward made me a better person."

In his ministry, one parishioner told him, "Father, you know what it's like to be broken," Boyd said.

Grundhaus said the diocese takes seriously people's concerns but that Boyd has many supporters and has been a good priest.

"We are trying to be as above board and honest about this as we can be," Grundhaus said. "And there are no victims."

But Tim Arneson, of the Bagley parish, said he's concerned that church officials seem to downplay Boyd's past problems and not see possible current ones.

"He says there are no victims," Arneson said. "We don't want to have any victims."

Boyd's next assignment hasn't been decided, but it's sure to be "low-profile," involving perhaps desk work, not parish ministry, Grundhaus said.

 
 

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