Bishop to Parishioners: I'm Sorry
Boyd Critics Say They Feel Vindicated
By Stephen J. Lee
Grand Forks Herald
August 17, 2003
An extraordinary and intense three-hour meeting here Saturday between Catholic church officials and seven parishioners included passing around images of nude men found on Web pages linked to the Rev. Rick Boyd and ended with an apology from Bishop Victor Balke.
It also included a promise from the bishop that the diocese would investigate Boyd's apparently recent use of Internet pornography brought to light Saturday, and would forge a new system "to assure that no child will be a victim of abuse."
After the meeting, the parishioners said they felt vindicated a month after they were blamed by some in their own parishes in Fosston and Bagley, Minn. for driving out a good priest.
"We finally got some respect," said Ann Anderson. "We feel we were validated."
Anderson and others raised concerns about Boyd that led to his resignation a month ago. They said his 1984 conviction for possessing child pornography, which they learned about only after he came to their parishes two years ago, raised questions about his fitness as a priest. And he seemed to be pursuing too-close relationships with young teenaged boys in the parishes, they said. Other parishioners supported Boyd.
The priest, 52, resigned July 17, telling the Herald that "innuendo and gossip," while false, destroyed his credibility.
He also denied using pornography since his 1984 conviction, for which he served two years probation and underwent six months of residential treatment at a Catholic center in Massachusetts.
An investigation last month by the Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, however, found that Boyd had apparently recently posted photos of nude men, next to photos of himself partially clothed, on Web pages he had built on the Internet. It wasn't illegal, so no charges were filed, Undersheriff Lyle Colligan said.
Saturday, the parishioners passed around paper copies of the explicit photos to Balke and three other diocesan officials: Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, vicar general, Bernadette Dunn, director of Christian service and George Noel, finance director who also is a computer technician for the chancery. All 11 met with a reporter to release the statement.
Balke and Grundhaus said they not seen the images before, Anderson said. Boyd apparently dismantled the Web pages about a week ago, after diocesan officials learned of them, the concerned parishioners said.
After the meeting, Balke declined to comment beyond the formal statement, except to say, "It was a very good meeting."
However, Balke wrote recently in the diocesan newsletter that Boyd was asked to - and agreed to - undergo treatment by a "professional therapist."
The past month, Boyd has been serving Mass at Mount St. Benedict in Crookston, mostly to the nuns there. He is living in the chancery, Grundhaus said.
Boyd's future as a priest will depend on the results of a further diocesan investigation, sparked by the photographs and other information provided Saturday by the parishioners, Grundhaus said. "We do not support the idea of priests looking at pornography," he said. "It's not illegal, but it's certainly immoral."
All at the Saturday meeting agreed - in the words of the joint statement - that it was "a very frank and honest" exchange.
"I was surprised at the seriousness and attentiveness they showed," said Tim Arneson, of Shevlin, Minn. "And at their willingness to have a sincere two-way dialogue."
But voices were raised at times, and at one point, Cathy Godtland, Fosston, who first brought concerns about Boyd to the bishop's attention last year, took a break, saying she was upset.
Before the meeting, some of the concerned parishioners were planning to quit the Catholic church, saying they were disillusioned and distrustful of their leaders.
But after Saturday's meeting, Anderson, of St. Joseph's in Bagley, said she was reconsidering. ""My heart softened," she said. "I might be able to stay in the church."
What made a big difference was their bishop saying he was sorry they felt attacked and intimidated by him at previous meetings for voicing their concerns about Boyd, they said.
Key words in the joint statement drafted Saturday, they said, were these:
"The diocese acknowledges that the concerns raised by the parishioners are valid and meaningful concerns, not innuendo, gossip or allegations. Bishop Balke apologizes if he gave the impression that he or the diocese is not open to hearing all concerns of sexual misconduct by any priest."
The seven parishioners had sought the meeting with Balke and Grundhaus, convinced they were mistreated by church officials and intent on making sure changes were made in the way such cases are handled, they said.
Despite their good feeling over Saturday's meeting, the seven parishioners still think that diocesan officials failed in providing due diligence about Boyd, Cea Arneson said.
"I told them 'That was your job,'" she said. "We are not stopping after this meeting."
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