ST. PAUL (AP) -- An investigator found that sexual abuse allegations against retired Bishop Paul Dudley of Sioux Falls, S.D., are not supported by the evidence, officials of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese announced Wednesday.
Vicar General Kevin McDonough said that based on the investigation, Archbishop Harry Flynn welcomed Dudley's full return to ministry and intends to call on Dudley from time to time to perform sacramental duties.
"I now believe the time has come to remove the shadow of the accusation from Bishop Dudley," Flynn said in a statement read by McDonough.
The sexual misconduct claims were made public last May, when Michael Flaherty, 58, publicly said Dudley abused him more than 45 years ago when he was an altar boy at a south Minneapolis parish. Two additional complaints were privately presented to the archdiocese by women alleging misconduct by Dudley in the 1960s and 70s respectively.
The archdiocese hired Richard Setter, former police chief for Minnetonka and St. Louis Park, to independently investigate the three claims. Over six months, Setter interviewed more than 50 people, including Flaherty and the two women, and found the claims were not supported.
"I am profoundly thankful that this difficult personal ordeal is finally over," Dudley, 76, said in a statement. "While living under the cloud of these accusations has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, I never lost faith and confidence that the truth would prevail."
Dudley, who now lives in Northfield, denied that he ever sexually abused anyone or violated any sexual boundaries. He voluntarily withdrew from all priestly ministry until the investigation was completed.
After Setter completed his investigation, Flynn engaged Richard Solum, a former Hennepin County district judge who is now in private practice, to independently evaluate the thoroughness and completeness of Setter's investigation and offer an independent assessment of the original claims.
Setter and Solum are not Catholics and neither has ever done any previous work for the archdiocese, officials said.
Solum wrote in his report to Flynn that the archdiocese could "reasonably and in good faith" rely on Setter's investigation and his conclusion that the evidence failed to support a finding "that it is more likely than not that Michael Flaherty's claim against Paul Dudley is true." The former judge was referring to the standard of proof required in civil trials as opposed to the stricter standard for criminal verdicts.
Solum said a number of important aspects of Flaherty's claims were directly contradicted by other sources, including former friends and classmates.
Regarding the two women, whose names were not disclosed because of confidentiality assurances, Solum also backed Setter's conclusions. In the case of one woman, he said the available evidence failed meet the civil standard of proof. In the other case, he deferred to Setter's conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to support her charge.
McDonough said he didn't question the sincerity of the two women, but that the investigation couldn't establish sufficient evidence of any misconduct by Dudley. He offered them the archdiocese's help with counseling and therapy, should they desire it.
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