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  Answers Coming in Controversy
Diocese, Sheriff Both Investigate Events Leading to Priest's Departure

By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
July 22, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Crookston's sexual misconduct review board, dominated by lay people, on Monday rejected a proposed statement on how church leaders have handled the recent controversy over the Rev. Rick Boyd.

Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, diocesan vicar general, said he worked over the weekend drafting the statement describing how he and other diocesan officials have investigated parishioners' recent concerns over Boyd.

"I'm glad they're independent," he said of the seven-person board, adding he hopes to have the statement completed to their satisfaction today.

Meanwhile, a preliminary law enforcement investigation into citizens' questions about Boyd is "making progress," a sheriff's official said Monday.

Boyd, 52, resigned suddenly Thursday as priest of St. Mary's in Fosston and St. Joseph's in Bagley amid growing concerns voiced by several parishioners linked to his 1984 conviction for possessing child pornography.

A handful of parishioners have become increasingly adamant the past two weeks, to Grundhaus and Bishop Victor Balke, about Boyd's past and why they weren't told about it long ago by church officials.

Their concerns include no firsthand evidence of wrongdoing by Boyd, they admit. Rather, the concerns center on behaviors they think are inappropriate for a priest, especially one who pleaded guilty 19 years ago to possessing child pornography, said Tim Arneson, a member of St. Joseph's.

Grundhaus met with some of the parishioners July 10, and Balke met with hundreds in both parishes after Mass on July 13. On Thursday, surprising some, Boyd offered his resignation, citing "innuendo and gossip," and Balke accepted it. Boyd will be given another job, still not determined, in the diocese that covers northwest Minnesota, Grundhaus said.

Board consideration

Arneson and others still wonder about how Balke and Grundhaus are handling the controversy, and suggest there is a cover-up going on.

That's exactly why the seven-member Sexual Misconduct Policy Review Board met Monday, Grundhaus said.

The board was formed in the spring of 2002 as an independent panel to review how the diocese handles sexual misconduct by clergy and staff.

The board includes two priests, including Grundhaus, who is Balke's chief assistant. The five lay people on the board include an attorney, a Polk County Sheriff's investigator, a licensed social worker, a family and school counselor and a doctor of psychology, Grundhaus said.

The board said Monday it wanted the report to include more firsthand accounts about concerns over Boyd, Grundhaus said.

So, Bernadette Dunn, the diocesan victim assistance coordinator, planned to do more interviews Monday evening, including with families of two teenaged boys whom some thought Boyd was getting too close to, Grundhaus said.

Computer concerns

Boyd gave one young boy a laptop computer, which the boy's parents turned over to Undersheriff Lyle Colligan, Grundhaus said. Another computer from Boyd's office and residence in Bagley, thrown out recently because it was old, apparently also is in the sheriff's department's custody, Grundhaus said.

Undersheriff Colligan explained that in computer-related complaints, his investigators often immediately check for any discarded computer equipment.

Colligan emphasized that there is not yet an actual criminal investigation of Boyd.

The computers are significant, said Cathy Godtland, a member of St. Mary's, because she and others have wondered if Boyd was accessing child pornography via computer, because of his past conviction and his admitted heavy use of the Internet.

Godtland points to a number of Web sites set up by Boyd as suspicious.

A search, using any Internet search engine such as Google.com. or Yahoo.com, for example, of the name "Father Rick Boyd" brings up a list of about 20 such sites.

They appear to be mostly weather-related but also contain links, via a password system, to other possible sites. Some of the "Father Rick Boyd" Web sites include photos of Boyd on a beach somewhere wearing a swimming suit.

Godtland asked, "Is that something a priest should do? "

Boyd told the Herald he simply likes weather-related news and information. He said he's never used pornography, on paper or on the Internet, since his 1984 conviction. Back then, he served two years probation after admitting to having hundreds of items, including about 20 magazines, plus photos and albums, of teenaged boys younger than 18 engaged in sex, court records show.

Boyd said he's been healed by therapy since, and now simply is a "computer nerd," who likes to keep in touch with friends and family via e-mail and weather-related Web sites.

Even so, Colligan said state computer crime task force experts in the Twin Cities are checking out the two computers, as well as the variety of Web sites Boyd has created.

Colligan has not yet interviewed Boyd, he said.

"He's all lawyered up," Colligan said, meaning Boyd has retained an attorney and has declined to speak informally to law enforcement.

It will be a week or more before he will know if a criminal investigation is warranted, Colligan said.

"We are working, with our 'white-collar' (crime) guy, and working with Polk County, attempting to put something together," Colligan said. "We are making some progress."

 
 

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