SD--Three MN predator priests worked in SD

For immediate release: Monday, Feb. 2, 2015

For more information: David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP Director (314) 566-9790 cell, [email protected]

Three MN predator priests worked in SD

Sex abuse victims seek help from Catholic officials

SNAP to bishops: “Seek out others who were hurt

Clergy sex abuse victims are urging two Catholic bishops to “aggressively reach out” to victims of three predator priests who worked in South Dakota and have been exposed recently in Minnesota.  

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are urging two bishops – Paul Swain of Sioux Falls and Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City – to “use church bulletins, parish websites, and pulpit announcements to find others who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Fr. William Stolzman, Fr. Clarence J. Vavra, or Fr. J.  Vincent Fitzgerald.”

Fr. Fitzgerald was in the news last week, when a Twin Cities judge ruled that two Minnesota bishops must release his records and when Twin Cities Catholic officials re-opened their investigation into him. He is accused of abusing a boy and a girl in the late 1960s at the Tekakwitha Indian Mission in Sisseton.

Fr. Stolzman was in the news last month when attorneys for clergy abuse victims posted more than 400 pages of his personnel files on line. He is accused of having child pornography and of fondling a boy in South Dakota in the early to mid-1970s. For 15 years (1973 to 1988), he worked on Native American missions in South Dakota.

Fr. Vavra admitted in 1995 to sexually abusing several young boys (ages 7-9) and one teenager in Rosebud SD whiling working at the Sioux Tribe Reservation and Jesuit Mission. But his crimes were hidden by Catholic officials for decades until just over a year ago when Minnesota Public Radio exposed him.

“South Dakota bishops use Google,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s director. “They know these priests – and others – are proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesters. Yet they stay silent instead of using their vast resources to try to help police, prosecutors and victims secure justice and protect others and expose cover ups.”

“Reaching out to victims who are still trapped in silence, shame, confusion and self-blame is cheap, quick and effective,” Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP's outreach director. “It can help victims break their silence and get help. It can help police and prosecutors pursue those who commit and conceal child sex crimes. But few Catholic officials have the courage and compassion to take this simple step to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.”

“For decades, US bishops have promised to be ‘open’ about predator priests,” said Frank Meuers of Plymouth MN, SNAP’s Minnesota director. “But like these South Dakota bishops, most church officials continue their patterns of recklessness, callousness and deceit. We hope Swain and Gruss will prove us wrong, act responsibly, and warn their flocks about these three priests and offer real h elp to their victims.”

Photos of Fr. Vavra and Fr. Fitzgerald are available at

Here is Fr. Vavra’s work history.

Here is a two page timeline about Fr. Stolzman:

Here are 444 pages of records about Fr. Stolzman:

More information about the clerics can be obtained by calling the civil attorneys who handle most Minnesota clergy sex cases: Jeff Anderson, Mike Finnegan and Patrick Wall at 651 227 9990.    

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