North Dakota Attorney General Concludes Investigation into Clergy Abuse, Cites Statute of Limitations for Lack of Arrests
An investigation by the Attorney General of North Dakota revealed that at least two Catholic priests who were accused of sexually abusing children and are alive today could have been charged criminally were it not for the Statute of Limitations. We are grateful to the Attorney General’s office for opening an investigation and we hope that survivors who were abused in North Dakota will make a report on the confidential hotline.
While this investigation did not lead to any new arrests, it did uncover the identification of a hidden abuser in North Dakota, Fr. Odo Muggli. The clergyman was a Benedictine priest and was not included on the lists of accused clerics published by Catholic officials in North Dakota. This is another example of the kind of hair-splitting that regularly happens when bishops release their lists of abusive priests. We hope that others who were hurt by Fr. Muggli will be encouraged by his identification and will now come forward and find help and healing.
In addition to Fr. Muggli, the other living priest who could have been prosecuted were it not for the criminal SOL is Fr. Norman Dukart. A third cleric, Fr. John Owens, died during the course of the investigation. These cases demonstrate exactly how the Church’s pattern of shuffling abusive priests and keeping the public in the dark about allegations has helped perpetrators evade justice and avoid criminal penalties. We can only hope that the survivors of these abusers will be able to pursue a civil trial now that criminal court is closed to them. We also hope that the work histories, headshots, and abuse history of these three men will be publicized by the Attorney General and that Catholic officials in Fargo and Bismarck will update their lists immediately.
We applaud A.G. Wayne Stenehjem and his team for their tireless efforts to investigate these crimes and ensure parents and parishioners are informed about the true scope and nature of Catholic clergy abuse in North Dakota. With every investigation that has been undertaken so far, more abusers have been identified and more patterns of deception on the part of Church leaders have been made public. This is just another example of why such an investigation should be undertaken by Attorneys General in every single state.
We are also grateful that A.G. Stenehjem is keeping his hotline open. As we have seen in other states, such as Pennsylvania, survivors and witnesses will continue to come forward long after the investigation is over. We encourage anyone who may have information about Catholic abuse in North Dakota to take advantage of these confidential reporting methods: 1-800-472-2185, [email protected].
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 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)