Clay County Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Teen on Red Lake Reservation
May 2, 2016
A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy on the Red Lake Reservation in 2008 has been removed from his present assignment as a pastor at St. Elizabeth Church in Dilworth and St. Andrew’s Church in Hawley, according to a Crookston Diocese official.
An attorney for the alleged victim, now an adult, notified diocese officials Friday, April 29, of a sexual misconduct allegation against the Rev. Patrick Sullivan and of plans to sue the diocese, said Monsignor Mike Foltz, vicar general of the diocese.
Foltz said Sullivan has been placed on administrative leave. “That means he cannot function as a priest until this is resolved,” Foltz said, adding that the diocese plans to investigate the matter.
Sullivan denies any wrongdoing, Foltz said. Sullivan has been a pastor in Dilworth and Hawley for seven years, and he previously spent 12 years as a priest in Red Lake, the vicar general said.
The alleged abuse happened when the boy was a parishioner at St. Mary’s Mission Church in Red Lake, said his attorney, Mike Finnegan. Finnegan declined to divulge details of the abuse, which he described as criminal sexual conduct.
Finnegan is an attorney with Jeff Anderson & Associates, a St. Paul firm that has brought numerous sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church. Some of the previous suits have involved the Crookston Diocese, but none of those have accused Sullivan of abuse, Finnegan said.
In this case, Finnegan said, the lawsuit has not yet been filed and the firm has not yet decided when to file it. Documents provided by Finnegan show that the alleged victim would seek more than $50,000 in damages in Red Lake County District Court and would ask that the diocese publicly release a list naming all staff accused of sexual abuse.
The Crookston Diocese released such a list in 2014 that contained the names of eight priests. Sullivan’s name was not on the list.
Foltz said he went to local Mass celebrations over the weekend to tell parishioners about the allegation against Sullivan. Foltz said the FBI and the Red Lake Police Department have been notified.
It’s unclear whether those agencies are investigating the case and whether the allegation will result in criminal charges. Phone messages left for both agencies were not returned Monday, May 2.
Citing an official Catholic directory, Finnegan said Sullivan was ordained in 1982 and has spent all that time in the Crookston Diocese, which covers northwest Minnesota.
Foltz said he’s not aware of any other sexual abuse allegations against Sullivan. Phone and email messages left for Sullivan were not returned.