No Proof of Abuse Is Found against Bishop
A Man and Two Women Said Bishop Paul Dudley Had Abused Them When He Was a Priest

By Warren Wolfe
Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN]
February 13, 2003

An investigator found no evidence to support allegations that retired Sioux Falls, S.D., Bishop Paul V. Dudley fondled an altar boy when Dudley was a priest in south Minneapolis in the 1950s, church officials said Wednesday.

"I now consider the complaints against Bishop Dudley to be closed and resolved in his favor," Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a written statement. "I intend to call on him to help me, especially in confirmation ceremonies," as Dudley resumes priestly work.

In a statement read by his lawyer, Dudley said: "I am profoundly thankful that this difficult and personal ordeal is finally over. While living under the cloud of these allegations has been the greatest challenge of my life, I never lost faith and confidence that the truth would prevail."

Church officials said they sent a registered letter with the findings to Michael Flaherty, 59, who brought the complaint, and to his attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, because Flaherty has moved from Savage and they had been unable to find him to tell him the results.

Anderson expressed outrage that the archdiocese had not contacted him earlier so he could break the news to Flaherty, who he said is under a doctor's care and was hospitalized earlier this year as he tried to deal with the abuse issues.

"I'm very alarmed and very afraid for him," said Anderson, who is in San Francisco on business. "I just found out that the archdiocese sent me the letter this morning, and I'm desperate to find Mr. Flaherty before he sees this on TV or reads the newspaper."

Women's claims

The investigation also found insufficient evidence to back up two allegations of sexual abuse against Dudley brought by two women, said the Rev. Kevin McDonough, Flynn's chief of staff who made the announcement Wednesday.

Dudley denied the allegations from the start. Through his attorney, he said Wednesday that he will have no further comment on the matter.

The announcement came after an 11-month investigation by a retired police chief and a former judge, McDonough said.

Dudley, 76, served as the Sioux Falls bishop for 17 years, retiring in 1995. Before that he was auxiliary bishop of the Twin Cities archdiocese for two years. He now lives in Northfield, Minn., his hometown.

Last February, Flaherty brought the allegation to the archdiocese. It became public in May when Flaherty put leaflets on parishioners' cars at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis, saying he was concerned that the archdiocese was not investigating his allegations. Flaherty claimed that Dudley fondled him four times when he was 11 or 12 years old and attended the church's school.

McDonough said the investigation began in March when the archdiocese hired a private investigator, retired Minnetonka Police Chief Richard Setter.

It was completed in November. The archdiocese then asked former Hennepin County Judge Richard Solum to review the results. Solum asked Setter to gather some additional information. Setter's report confirming Setter's findings was given to Flynn on Friday.

McDonough said that the Hennepin County attorney was informed of the allegations when they were made, but that no criminal investigation was begun because the alleged abuse occurred so long ago that the statute of limitations would have prevented prosecution.

He also said there are no new allegations of sexual abuse by diocesan priests or officials, or any ongoing sexual-abuse investigations of by the church or civil authorities. The archdiocese's lay Clergy Review Board has almost completed its work reviewing all past allegations of sexual abuse, improprieties or harassment.

Solum's report

While falling short of saying that the alleged incidents did not happen, Solum's report, which was not made public, told the archbishop, "I believe that you and the archdiocese can reasonably and in good faith rely on [the conclusion] that the evidence fails to support a finding that is more likely than not that Michael Flaherty's claim against Paul Dudley is true."

For instance, McDonough said, Flaherty claimed he was molested by Dudley once when Flaherty was counting collection-plate money. But interviews with others who were altar boys at the time said altar boys always were kept separate from the money.

Solum's report reached similar conclusions about the allegations brought by the two women, saying the evidence "fails to demonstrate that the claims" were true. The women never filed formal complaints with the archdiocese.

Dudley started his career in 1951 at Annunciation Church, where he served until 1964. He also served at the Church of St. Patrick in St. Paul, St. Edward's Church in Bloomington, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mound and St. Dominic's Church in Northfield.

When announcing the investigation last May, McDonough said the archdiocese was trying to find a woman who in 1999 accused Dudley of molesting her while he was a priest in Mound. Setter found her, investigated the case and found no substantiating evidence, McDonough said Wednesday.

When Flaherty's allegation was made public, a second woman came forward saying that Dudley had acted inappropriately toward her in a public place in the 1960s. Setter investigated that case as well and also found insufficient evidence to support her claim.


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