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Barbara Dorris, Published April 09 2013

Letter: Hope is that Fargo’s new bishop will do better for abuse victims

As Fargo prepares for a new bishop, we hope that Bishop John Folda will be a better advocate for clergy sex abuse victims than his predecessor, Bishop Samuel Aquila, who is now archbishop of Denver.

Fargo Catholic officials have acted poorly in the past on clergy sex crimes. For example, in 2009, it was revealed that three monsignors, after receiving a credible accusation of abuse, refused to share the information with anyone outside the diocesan hierarchy. The diocese first heard the accusation against the Rev. Gregory Patejko in 1994, and paid a settlement to Patejko’s victim that same year. Yet it wasn’t until 15 years later that the allegation was made public, and even then only because the victim grew tired of the diocese’s silence and went to the media himself.

Catholic officials’ silence in this matter only served to help the Diocese of Fargo avoid public embarrassment, and actually worked against victims by allowing others who may have been abused by Patejko to continue suffering in silence.

We don’t know how many other allegations may have been kept under wraps in the same way, but we suspect that this was not the only case.

We hope Folda will reverse the hurtful trend of his predecessors and instead tackle sex crimes against children head on, and do everything in his power to keep his congregation informed. One action he can take to immediately make North Dakota kids safer would be to post a list of all credibly accused child molesting clerics on his diocesan website. We hope Folda will take this advice to heart.

Dorris is outreach director for SNAP, a support group for clergy abuse victims that includes members who were abused by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops and Protestant ministers. SNAP was founded in 1988 and claims 12,000 members.