Woman Sues Priest for Abuse

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, MN)
December 5, 2002

A former parishioner at St. John Cantius Church has sued the St. Cloud Diocese and the Rev. Donald Rieder, accusing him of sexual abuse.

The alleged sexual abuse falls within the statute of limitations, and a police investigation into the allegations has been referred to the Stearns County attorney's office for possible criminal charges.

The victim, identified in court records as Jane Doe 4R, accuses Rieder of sexually abusing her from 1988 until about 1995. Jane Doe was 5 when the abuse began, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Stearns County District Court.

The victim is being represented by St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has sued numerous religious organizations and clerics nationwide.

"We're very concerned that she isn't the only (victim)," Anderson said. "We hope that others can hear the message that she is sending by this suit - that you're not alone and you can come forward and get help. Because she is now getting help."


Reached Wednesday at his St. Cloud home, Rieder declined comment but said he was aware of the lawsuit.

The diocese hadn't been served with the lawsuit as of late Wednesday and officials hadn't an opportunity to review a copy provided to them by the Times, spokesman Steve Gottwalt said. The diocese was asked in April, late October and again Wednesday for a work history for Rieder, but hasn't provided one.

Anderson provided history of Rieder's employment in the diocese based on research of past church directories.

Rieder was assigned to Cantius from 1986 to 1995 and then retired. Before that he was at St. Stanislaus in Sobieski from 1981-85 and St. Gabriel's Hospital in Little Falls from 1978-80. Before that he had served in parishes in Paynesville, Roscoe, Morris, Kimball, Randall and Alexandria, according to Anderson.

The victim is in her late teens and lives outside the St. Cloud area, Anderson said.

"She and her family and herself were raised in this church and taught to be devout and trusting of Father Rieder and they were," Anderson said. "This has been a shattering experience for the entire family."

The victim in recent months reported the allegations to St. Cloud police. The alleged abuse falls within the statute of limitations, meaning criminal charges are possible against Rieder.

"The case has been referred for prosecution. It is within the statute of limitations, and the matter is being considered for prosecution," said Mary Yunker, head of the criminal division in the Stearns County Attorney's Office.

The county attorney's office has been in contact with the victim and her family "in anticipation of making a charging decision," Yunker said.

Former priest charged

If charged, Rieder would be the second priest from the St. Cloud Diocese to face criminal charges in Stearns County for alleged sexual abuse. The Rev. Raoul Gauthier was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1979 after a developmentally disabled man reported that Gauthier fondled him in a vehicle in a Waite Park parking lot.

Gauthier admitted abusing the 37-year-old mentally retarded man when interviewed by police in 1979. He left the United States shortly thereafter and never was extradited from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, Canada, where he was ordained in 1933 and later died in 1995 at age 92.

The suit filed Wednesday names the Diocese and Rieder as defendants and claims the Diocese knew or should have known about Rieder's propensity to abuse children. It alleges that Rieder abused the girl at various places in and around the church and rectory at St. John Cantius. The lawsuit doesn't contain any more specific information about the abuse.

Anderson called Rieder "a predatory groomer" who comes across as a caring and gentle pastor.

"He builds trust and reverence, in this case with a very young child who he came to violate repeatedly from very early years until almost her teen-age years," he said. "It was all done in secrecy and silence."

Rieder assignments

Assignments for the Rev. Donald Rieder, from the Catholic Directory, according to attorney Jeffrey Anderson.

• 1955 - Ordained.

• 1956-58 Alexandria - St. Mary's Church (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1959-64 Randall - St. James Church (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1965-69 Kimball - Church of St. Anne (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1970- Morris - Assumption of the Blessed Mary (St. Cloud Diocese) 1971-Roscoe - St. Agnes Church (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1972-76 Paynesville - St. Louis (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1977 - On duty outside the Diocese.

• 1978-80 Little Falls - St. Gabriel's Hospital (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1981-85 Sobieski - St. Stanislaus' Church (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1986-95 St. Cloud - St. John Cantius (St. Cloud Diocese).

• 1996 - Retired.


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