Brother of Former North Dakota Governor Listed as Abuser in Fargo, SNAP Calls on A.G. to Investigate & Set Up Hotline

We applaud the Grand Forks Herald for their pertinent observation that the Diocese of Fargo's list of accused priests does not disclose the details of the allegations against the brother of a former governor  or any of the other clergy named. Indeed, it does not.

In Fargo, Fr. Richard W. Sinner is on the list of those clerics with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. Fr. Sinner is notable because of the statewide prominence of his family – his brother George was a former Governor of North Dakota and a nephew was a state senator. The fact that the diocese kept Fr. Sinner’s abuse a secret for years, and even now provides minimal information about this man, speaks volumes about the Catholic Church and their willingness to protect wrongdoers at the expense of victims.

What is needed to get the full truth and scope of abuse in North Dakota is a report as comprehensive as that compiled by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. We hope that A.G. Wayne Stenehjem will look closely at this situation and will follow in the footsteps of other attorneys general around the country who are investigating these cases and keeping the public informed about their progress.

The refusal of Catholic officials in Fargo to provide necessary information regarding the allegations and work histories of the abusers on their list is, it seems to us, a deliberate and self-serving choice that keeps communities in the dark. What we believe is necessary right now is a far greater effort to inform, and a much broader effort at reaching out to victims

Members of the media can help with this by tracking down the assignment histories of the men on the list, as the Grand Forks Herald did in the case of Fr. Sinner. They can also help with outreach to additional victims by joining our call for the creation of a confidential hotline by A.G. Stenehjem. We know that more survivors are willing to come forward when they have a safe and secure place to call. The creation of such a hotline can encourage victims to come forward, and the information these brave souls provide could help protect children today.

The average victim count nationwide among all dioceses investigated by secular authorities is approaching nine victims per priest. Rates of abuse among these investigated dioceses range from 8 to 11% of clerics working in a diocese. We believe that these numbers would hold true in North Dakota as well. We hope that secular officials like A.G. Stenehjem will take steps to open their own investigation and set up hotlines so that the full scope of abuse in North Dakota can be documented, children can be better protected, and survivors can find opportunities for healing and justice.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org


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