The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis confirmed Tuesday it has hired an outside investigator to check allegations of sexual abuse against retired Bishop Paul Dudley, who served 27 years as a priest in the Twin Cities before becoming bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1978.
The announcement came two days after the alleged victim, a man in his late 50s, left leaflets on parked cars outside a south Minneapolis church where he said the abuse occurred about 45 years ago.
Dudley, who fully retired five years ago and now lives in Northfield, Minn., denied the allegation in a letter to Archbishop Harry Flynn. Dudley, 75, said he never abused the complainant or anyone else and urged a thorough investigation of what he called a “false accusation.”
The archdiocese also said it received a complaint against Dudley from a woman in 1999, alleging he abused her in the 1970s at a parish in Mound. But the archdiocese was unable to make any return contact with the woman and determined there was insufficient evidence to support the charge.
Dudley has volunteered to withdraw from any priestly ministry because of current publicity given to priests accused of sexual abuse. He occasionally serves the archdiocese in ceremonial capacities.
Dudley said Tuesday evening he would do everything in his power to prove his innocence. He declined to comment further on the advice of his lawyer.
The alleged victim contacted the Twin Cities archdiocese in February, saying that Dudley fondled him four separate times at Annunciation parish, at 54th Street and Harriet Avenue, in the 1950s. The alleged victim said he was an altar boy at the time. The Associated Press reported that KSTP-TV identified the alleged victim as Michael Flaherty, 58, of the Twin Cities.
The archdiocese about a month and a half ago hired an independent investigator, former Minnetonka police chief Richard Setter, to look into the Dudley case, as well as an unrelated accusation against another priest of abuse said to have occurred about 37 years ago.
Setter was hired because of the difficulty in investigating such old cases.
“It certainly goes beyond the capacity of any church resources to do so,” said the Rev. Kevin McDonough, vicar general of the archdiocese. “We know establishing the truth of something that happened 45 years ago is very, very difficult.”
The archdiocese has also contacted the Hennepin County attorney’s office.
McDonough acknowledged the alleged victim’s leafleting during one of the Sunday Masses may have indicated some dissatisfaction with the archdiocese’s investigation.
“He and I had spoken a month or so ago when he said he might want to leaflet,” McDonough said. “I said he certainly had a right to do that, and he ought to do so if he wanted to, but that we were pursuing an investigation and we hoped to complete the investigation.”
The leaflet, in which the alleged victim was identified, indicated he wanted to warn parents so they could protect their children.
If a complaint is found to be credible, one of the possible outcomes would be notifying parishes where the accused previously served.
“We do that on occasion if we think that’s a way to allow other victims to come forward,” McDonough said. “That’s obviously been upstaged by the leafleting and today’s announcement.”
After serving at Annunciation, Dudley was pastor at St. Edward in Bloomington and Our Lady of the Lake in Mound. He was named an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1976 and appointed bishop of Sioux Falls in 1978. He retired as bishop in 1995 but served two more years in semi-retirement at St. Dominic in Northfield, Minn.
McDonough was accompanied at Tuesday’s news conference by Auxiliary Bishops Frederick Campbell and Richard Pates. Archbishop Flynn is leading a weeklong priests’ retreat in Rockford, Ill., an event scheduled more than two years ago.
In a written statement, Flynn said: “In keeping with our stance on zero tolerance, it is important that we investigate all allegations regardless of who they are against. The victims have a right to this process, as do those who have been accused.”