Diocese Removes Hudson Priest for Alleged Inappropriate Behavior

By Jon Echternacht
River Towns [Hudson WI]
June 9, 2005

The bishop of the Diocese of Superior has banned an elderly Hudson priest, the Rev. James S. Dabruzzi, from celebrating mass publicly for alleged inappropriate behavior involving women parishioners.

St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson, however, said he will not file criminal charges against Dabruzzi.

When contacted Monday, Dabruzzi said he is not guilty of any wrongdoing, saying the newspaper did not know all the facts. He reiterated that no charges have been filed, calling the incident an internal church affair.

"I am not guilty," Dabruzzi said.

The Most Rev. Raphael M. Fliss, sent a letter to Dabruzzi, 77, of St. Patrick's Catholic Church on April 28.

"Although no criminal charges have been filed against you, your behavior was most inappropriate and scandalous," the bishop wrote. "Eleven women have complained that you have sexually abused them. Consequently, I am suspending you from all public ministry."

St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead confirmed that his department was involved in an investigation of Dabruzzi.

"We investigated complaints over the past six to eight months that Father Dabruzzi was involved in inappropriate conduct with adult women," Hillstead said May 27. "We finished the investigation and forwarded the results to District Attorney Eric Johnson's office. The church took steps to remove Father Dabruzzi from public ministry and the district attorney's office is not going to file charges."

Hillstead said he understood that the women involved agreed that if the church took appropriate action, criminal charges would not be necessary.

In a letter dated Feb. 1 to one of the complainants, Johnson said, "I have reviewed the entire file and spoken to the Investigator and have decided at this time not to file criminal charges.

"My decision does not mean that I feel Mr. Dabruzzi's actions were appropriate. Rather, I strongly feel that his behavior was inappropriate ..Again, even though his actions are inappropriate, it does not mean that they are criminal or that they can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court," the district attorney added.

When contacted Monday, Johnson said Dabruzzi's behavior, in his estimation, "did not rise to the level of criminal behavior and it would be extremely difficult to prove criminal intent on Dabruzzi's part."

Johnson said it was a question of whether he was being "overly friendly."

Johnson said the behavior was more like sexual harassment than sexual assault.

He said he thought the victims were satisfied with his analysis of the investigation and that they were satisfied with the sanctions leveled by the diocese.

In a letter, mailed April 28 to one of the aggrieved persons, Bishop Fliss recounted his actions concerning Dabruzzi and said, "I am embarrassed and sorry that you have had to endure such abuse from Fr. Dabruzzi and I thank you for allowing (an investigator) to interview you and share this information with me."

In the letter to Dabruzzi, the bishop said, "I have concluded that for the good of the Church and your spiritual well-being, I must impose a canonical penalty upon you."

He went on to say that he would allow Dabruzzi "to celebrate Mass privately and at the Carmelite Convent (in Hudson) but not at St. Patrick Church in Hudson nor any other Church."

Dabruzzi, a native of North Hudson, was ordained May 30, 1953, at Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.