Church Investigates Claim against Dudley

By Lee Williams
Argus Leader [Sioux Falls SD]
May 8, 2002

The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is investigating allegations of sexual abuse against the former bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

A Minneapolis man has accused retired Bishop Paul Dudley of abusing him when he was an 11- or 12-year-old boy in the 1950s. At the time, Dudley was a priest at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis.

Dudley, who served the Sioux Falls Diocese from 1978 to 1995, denied the allegations. "I'm at peace. I have no hesitancy to swear that I am totally innocent of all allegations," Dudley, 75, said Tuesday.

Dudley also maintained his innocence in a letter to Archbishop Harry Flynn.

"Due to the great publicity, I consider it best to withdraw from any priestly ministry until my innocence is proven," Dudley wrote. "I am determined to take whatever action is necessary to prove beyond any doubt that this accusation is an outright lie."

Accusations of abuse by priests have surfaced across the nation in recent weeks. At least 176 priests suspected of molesting minors have either resigned or been taken off duty in 28 states and the District of Columbia since the sex scandal erupted in January.

Archbishop Flynn heads a committee on sex abuse that will make a recommendation in June to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a news conference Tuesday, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese, said the church has hired an investigator to examine the allegations against Dudley. Church officials also have contacted the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, McDonough said.

Church officials went public with the allegations because the accuser, placed leaflets on cars at Annunciation Church during the weekend, accusing Dudley of the abuse, McDonough said.

The archdiocese's usual practice is to make any disclosures only after an investigation is complete.

The charges against Dudley were made by a Minneapolis man, who is now in his late 50s. The man said Dudley fondled him on four occasions in the 1950s, McDonough said.

The victim went to the archdiocese's victim's advocacy office with his charges in February.

Attempts to contact the accuser Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Dudley was ordained in 1951 and became bishop of the Sioux Falls Diocese in 1978. He retired in 1995 and now lives in Northfield.

Dudley's successor in Sioux Falls, Bishop Robert Carlson, said he learned of the allegations Monday afternoon.

"I was in shock," Carlson said. "Bishop Dudley was known to my family since I was in grade school. I find it very hard to believe."

As a boy, Carlson was a member of the parish where Dudley was a priest.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls is not involved in the investigation because the alleged events stem from Dudley's tenure as a priest in Minneapolis. There are no known allegations of any type of misconduct during Dudley's years in South Dakota, Carlson said.

Earlier this year, Carlson said he had invited the state attorney general's office in Minnehaha County to review his procedures for handling sex-abuse cases involving priests.

Pete Cahill, the chief deputy attorney for Hennepin County, said his office has not been told of any specific allegations.

"There was a single phone call to one of our lawyers," Cahill said. "But no specific cases were discussed. It was just a general discussion of the law."

Cahill said it is unlikely that any abuse that occurred in the 1950s would be prosecuted.

"But if we receive an investigation or report from an investigator, we will look at it," he said.

This is the second abuse allegation against Dudley.

McDonough said a woman came forward in 1999 to allege that Dudley abused her in the 1970s at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mound, Minn. McDonough said the archdiocese tried unsuccessfully to contact the woman by phone and e-mail. There was insufficient evidence to support her claim, he said.

"They followed up on it, but there was no evidence to support it," Carlson said.

Carlson said he must remain neutral on any abuse allegation.

"As bishop, I have to be open to victims and brother priests," Carlson said. "I want to continue to be open to all legitimate victims."

Dudley said Tuesday that he is spending time with his lawyer "proving my innocence."

"I'm asking people for their prayers, but I am also asking people to pray for those wounded people who made the unfounded allegations," he said. "They deserve our prayers, too."

Through tears, often unable to continue his sentences, Carlson recounted how Dudley had helped his family over the years.

"He was a great priest to us," Carlson said. "He ... buried two of my sisters who died as infants. ... I can't believe it. You're talking about one of my heroes."

Carlson and Dudley served together for a year, while their terms overlapped. The bishop said Dudley was a people-oriented person.

"I don't think he was ever a great administrator. It was not his strong suit, but he ran the diocese well," Carlson said. "I just learned that he would come in at the end of the year and ask how much money was left over, as he wanted to give it to the poor."


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