Priest Charged with Abuse

By David Unze
St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, MN)
December 13, 2002

Criminal sexual conduct charges have been filed against the Rev. Donald Rieder, who is accused of sexually abusing a female parishioner for as many as six years while he was a priest at St. John Cantius Church in St. Cloud.

Rieder, 78, faces three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to a complaint signed late Thursday afternoon by a Stearns County District Court judge. Rieder won't be arrested, but will be mailed a summons ordering him to appear Dec. 30 for arraignment.

The charges carry a possible prison sentence, Assistant Stearns County Attorney Mary Yunker said. She charged Rieder with three counts, even though there were numerous incidents, according to the victim, because it gives Yunker the flexibility of a possible sentence ranging from probation to prison if he's convicted without having to prove dozens of separate incidents.

"I want to emphasize that the victim absolutely will be involved in any ultimate sentence, and that decision has not been made," Yunker said.

He is the second diocesan priest charged with sexual abuse in Stearns County, although at least one other diocesan priest has been charged in another county. The Rev. Raoul Gauthier was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1979 in Stearns County after a man with developmental disabilities reported that Gauthier fondled him in a vehicle in a Waite Park parking lot.

Gauthier admitted abusing the 37-year-old man when police interviewed him in 1979. He left the United States shortly thereafter and never was extradited from Canada. He died there in 1995 at age 92.

The allegations

The complaint accuses Rieder of groping the girl beginning in the late 1980s - when she was 5 or 6 - and continuing on a weekly basis until 1995, when Rieder retired from Cantius. At least one of the incidents was witnessed by the victim's mother, the complaint said. The victim's mother told investigators she saw Rieder put his hand down the victim's pants, underneath her clothing, when she was about 6 or 7.

Some of the abuse took place in the church sacristy, the complaint said, when Rieder would offer the victim candy. He also groped her at his residence adjacent to the church on occasions "numbering more than the (victim) can count," according to the complaint.

Because of her family's involvement in the church, the victim was afraid her parents wouldn't believe her if she told them about Rieder's abuse, the complaint said. She contacted police in July 2002 to report the abuse.

The daughter wasn't aware her mother saw the abuse.

A portion of the alleged abuse happened in the three years after the diocese said it first learned of allegations against Rieder from Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen, a different victim. In 1992, when Fuchs-Hoeschen reported her allegations to the diocese, policy didn't require Rieder's removal from ministry, said Bishop John Kinney, and policy was followed.

Rieder was sent for an evaluation after the allegations were received in 1992, when Bishop Jerome Hanus led the St. Cloud Diocese. The recommendation was to monitor Rieder and send him for treatment "if there was any additional allegation," Kinney said Thursday in a statement.

Kinney's statement was in response to news reports that Fuchs-Hoeschen had reported her abuse to the diocese in 1994, a year before Kinney was named bishop. She actually had reported it in 1992, Kinney said.

"Isn't it ironic that the correction to 1992 allowed Father Donald Rieder three more years to abuse this young child," Fuchs-Hoeschen said. "He could have been removed at that time, and this abuse could have been brought forward and she could have been offered help much earlier. I'm sorry for the fact that she had to suffer."

Last week Rieder was sued in a civil lawsuit by a woman identified as Jane Doe, for abuse she said occurred at Cantius.

Rieder's file

The diocese was under no requirement to remove Rieder's priestly duties - or remove him from his parish - when the allegations were made in 1992, Kinney said. Kinney didn't find out about any allegations against Rieder until this year, he said, and he immediately removed Rieder from public ministry.

Rieder on his own obtained a volunteer job as priest at St. Cloud Hospital, where he worked two days a week offering sacraments and performing Mass from 1995 until April.

That Kinney didn't know about Rieder until 2002 - 10 years after the first allegations against Rieder and seven years after Kinney became bishop - frustrates Fuchs-Hoeschen, she said.

Kinney reviewed some, but not all, priest files when he became bishop in 1995, said Steve Gottwalt, spokesman for the Diocese.

"The diocesan attorney went over with Bishop Kinney when he came to the diocese a list of (criminal and civil) cases," Gottwalt said. "That would not have included Father Rieder because there were no charges and he hadn't been removed (from any parish)."

The first time Kinney reviewed Rieder's personnel file was this April, Kinney said, after the new allegation was received. Kinney decided this spring also to do a complete review of all priest files, including current, former and deceased priests.

The diocese followed policies and procedures in place in 1992, Kinney said, which didn't require removing Rieder from ministry. Policies in place at the time also didn't require the 1992 allegations against Rieder - made to then-vicar general Monsignor Daniel Taufen - to be brought to his attention after he became bishop in 1995.

Policy requires Kinney to be notified of any new allegation against a diocesan priest.

"Back then there was no reason to remove him," Gottwalt said. "Some could argue that was negligence. The truth is, the policies we thought were appropriate were followed."

The diocese is reviewing the Rieder case to to see if policies, procedures and processes need improvement, Kinney said. The Diocesan Review Board also will be looking at what supervision the diocese should have over its retired priests.

"Review of this case may very well suggest changes for the diocese," Kinney wrote in his statement Thursday.

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).

Sobieski - St. Stanislaus' Church (St. Cloud Diocese).

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

1996 - Retired.


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