On Wednesday, July 17, we announced that a settlement had been reached between claimants represented by Jeff Anderson & Associates and the Diocese of Crookston. The economic facts of the settlement have been reported. As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed to a number of non-economic protocols as well. The diocese agreed to make available for public release the names of all clergy who have worked in the Diocese of Crookston at any time who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse or possession of child pornography. The diocese also agreed to make available for review and publication by plaintiff’s counsel all documents on Fathers Roger Grundhaus, Patrick Sullivan and Joseph Richards. I want to say something to you about each of these three.
Father Joseph Richards: Father Richards was ordained in 1990. Three years after ordination, Father Richards asked to receive help to deal with unresolved issues in his life that stemmed from his childhood. Father Richards shared with Bishop Balke that he had been sexually abused as a child. He additionally disclosed that when a minor, 14 years old, on one occasion he also abused another child. His request for help was granted and for nine months he received treatment at St. Michael’s Center in St. Louis. After his successful completion and discharge from treatment, and having benefitted from the help he received, Father Richards was returned to priestly ministry and has served admirably now and without incident for a total of 29 years. No accusation of sexual abuse has ever been made against Father Richards. These facts were presented to the Diocesan Review Board whose membership includes people with experience in law enforcement and child protection. The Board recommended that Father Richards continue in priestly ministry. According to the settlement, Father Richards’ name will NOT be included on the list of priests credibly accused but his name will be listed as a priest accused because of his own admission in 1993.
Father Patrick Sullivan: Father Sullivan served at St. Mary’s Mission at Red Lake from 1997-2009. In 2016, the Diocese of Crookston was sued by a man who accused Father Sullivan of abusing him when the man was a minor. Father Sullivan denies this accusation. After review of the testimony in this case, the allegation was deemed “not credible” by the Diocesan Review Board. The Diocese of Crookston has not received any other accusation of minor sexual abuse against Father Sullivan. According to the settlement, Father Sullivan’s name will NOT be included on the list of priests credibly accused. His name will be listed as a priest accused as a result of having been named in a lawsuit.
Msgr. Roger Grundhaus: In 2017, the Diocese of Crookston was served with a lawsuit in which the claimant asserted that Msgr. Grundhaus sexually abused him at a Canon Law Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in 1971, when the claimant was a minor. Msgr. Grundhaus denies this allegation. At my direction, testimony and evidence was gathered by an independent investigator from outside the diocese. The investigator found that, in fact, there was no Canon Law Convention in Columbus in 1971. This fact and all the testimony gathered in the case, along with the investigator’s report and recommendations, was thereafter presented to the Diocesan Review Board. The Review Board has recommended that Msgr. Grundhaus be reinstated to priestly ministry. No other accusation against Msgr. Grundhaus of sexual abuse of a minor has ever been received by the Diocese of Crookston. According to the terms of the settlement, Msgr. Grundhaus’ name will NOT be included on the list of priests credibly accused. His name will be listed as a priest accused as a result of having been named in a lawsuit.
And so, to reiterate: According to the non-economic protocols negotiated as part of the settlement of these cases, Father Richards’ name will not be included on our list of priests credibly accused but his name will be listed as a priest accused, not because someone accused him of sexual abuse during his priesthood, but because of his own admission in 1993. The Diocesan Review Board has determined that the accusations made against Father Sullivan and Msgr. Grundhaus are not credible. Therefore, the names of Father Sullivan and Msgr. Grundhaus likewise are not included on the list of priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse of a minor or possession of child pornography but will be listed as priests accused.
August 4 is traditionally the feast of the patron of parish priests, the Cure of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney. This August 4, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, wrote a letter to all the priests of the world. He wanted to thank them for leaving all behind to immerse themselves in the daily life of their parish communities and for expending themselves to care for and accompany God’s people. He said: “Without denying or dismissing the harm caused by some of our brothers, it would be unfair not to express our gratitude to all those priests who faithfully and generously spend their lives in the service of others.” Knowing that priests are human, imperfect and sinners too, let us remember to express our gratitude for all our great priests and to encourage them in their ministry as they accompany us on our road of conversion and, day in and day out, feed us with the richness of the Gospel message, the grace-life of the sacraments.