UPDATE: Attorney blasts reinstatement of Dilworth-Hawley priest accused of sexually abusing teen
CROOKSTON, Minn. — An attorney representing a man who claims a Catholic priest sexually abused him as a teen expressed outrage Wednesday, Dec. 27, that the Crookston Diocese has reinstated the priest as pastor of the Dilworth and Hawley parishes.
The diocese announced on Tuesday, Dec. 26, that Father Patrick Sullivan resumed his priestly duties at St. Elizabeth's Parish in Dilworth and St. Andrew's Parish in Hawley. Sullivan had been placed on administrative leave after the abuse allegations surfaced in 2016.
The diocese said it had concluded that allegations of wrongdoing by Sullivan were unfounded.
The alleged victim’s attorney, Jeff Anderson, said a lawsuit would be filed sometime Wednesday relating to allegations involving Sullivan and a minor.
“The decision by the diocese and Bishop (Michael) Hoeppner to return Father Sullivan to ministry while the lawsuit is pending is reckless, because Father Sullivan poses a threat of harm to children,” Anderson said in a written statement.
Anderson also claimed that prior to allegations being made against Sullivan, the church possessed information that Sullivan posed a serious risk. “We believe Sullivan is still a risk to children and should not be reinstated,” Anderson said in the statement.
The diocese said Sullivan was placed on leave in April 2016 after the diocese was served with a civil complaint through Anderson’s office.
The complaint claimed that in 2008, while serving as pastor at St. Mary's Mission Church in Red Lake, Minn., Sullivan had unpermitted sexual contact with the plaintiff when he was 15 years old. A timeline provided by Anderson indicates the alleged misconduct occurred in 2009.
The diocese said local and federal authorities investigated the matter and that no criminal charges were filed. The diocese said the decision to reinstate Sullivan was made after the plaintiff was deposed by diocesan attorneys, and the Diocese of Crookston Board of Review for the Protection of Children and Young People deemed the accusations were not credible.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the diocese, Monsignor Mike Foltz, underscored that Sullivan has denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing, and Foltz stressed that only one person has made such claims against Sullivan.
As far as Anderson’s claim that Sullivan poses a risk and that the church has known that for years, Foltz said that when Sullivan left the Red Lake area around 2009 it was after having served the area during a time when a school shooting had occurred there.
“I think, basically, he (Sullivan) was asking for a little rest and retreat. The diocese has no information that Father Pat was, or is, a risk to minors,” Foltz added.