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  Done by the Book
Panel Says Diocese Handled Priest Controversy Correctly

By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
July 23, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Crookston's Sexual Misconduct Review Board says it has followed diocesan policy in the way it has handled concerns voiced recently by some parishioners about the Rev. Rick Boyd.

And so far, no evidence of abuse by Boyd of anyone has come to light, the board said in a written statement released Tuesday.

Boyd, 52, resigned suddenly Thursday as pastor of St. Joseph's in Bagley, Minn., and St. Mary's in Fosston, Minn., where he had been for two years. It followed a week in which a handful of parishioners had pressed diocesan officials over the way Boyd interacts with young people, his frequent use of the Internet and why they weren't told about his 1984 conviction for possessing child pornography.

Besides spurring the diocese's spiritual leader, Bishop Victor Balke, to meet with parishioners, the concerns also have led to an ongoing investigation by sheriffs' departments in Clearwater County in Bagley and Polk County in Crookston.

In addition, investigators from a statewide computer crime task force are looking at two computers thought to have been used by Boyd, said Lyle Colligan, undersheriff in Clearwater County.

Boyd denies any wrongdoing, but said last week his credibility was so damaged by "innuendo and gossip" that he resigned for the good of the church. He's working and living at diocesan headquarters in Crookston and declined comment Tuesday.

Bishop Balke has not commented publicly on the controversy.

Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, vicar general of the diocese and spokesman for the review board, said the diocese wants to let the written statement speak for church officials at this point.

In the statement, published in today's Herald, the seven-member review board said the diocese's response has been "timely and appropriate" in the Boyd affair.

"To date, we have no evidence to indicate that abuse occurred," the statement said. "However, in the event that additional information comes to light, you can be assured we will take the necessary action to inform the public, protect our children and support any victims."

The board is made up of two priests, including Grundhaus. Five lay people, including a counseling psychologist, a juvenile court investigator for the Polk County Sheriff's Department, a social worker, a school counselor and an attorney are on the board formed in spring 2002.

Because the response of the board and the diocese has been questioned in news reports by some of Boyd's critics, Grundhaus said he thought it was important to release the statement.

Grundhaus wrote the statement over the weekend and revised it following review board suggestions Monday. Board members wanted the diocese's victim advocate to do more first-hand interviews of parishioners with concerns about Boyd, Grundhaus said.

Mark Krecji, a Moorhead psychologist and a member of the review board, said Tuesday that the board did not actually reject Grundhaus' preliminary draft, as the Herald reported Tuesday. Rather, the board simply asked Grundhaus to make some revisions, Krecji said.

The review board oversees the use of the diocese's 20-page Sexual Misconduct Policy, which was just revised and published over the weekend in the diocese's monthly newspaper, "Our Northland Diocese."

The policy does not directly address the issue of child pornography possession, although it defines sexual misconduct as "any sexual conduct of diocesan personnel," that is either illegal in Minnesota or contrary to the teachings of the Catholic church.

The policy rather is aimed mostly at sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment of anyone by any priest or other employee of the diocese, Grundhaus said. But the review board has discussed whether the issue of child pornography should be added to the policy, Grundhaus said.

The policy first was effected in May 1992 and was revised in May 2003.

Bishop Balke, who has been bishop in Crookston for more than a quarter century, was not available for comment Tuesday.

In the past, Balke has defended Boyd, saying the priest successfully underwent counseling and therapy and has been a good priest the past 18 years in several parishes.

The Crookston diocese stretches from Park Rapids to Hallock, Minn., including about 40,000 Catholics in 69 parishes, with about 34 priests to serve them.

 
 

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