Church leaders in St. Paul, Minnesota engaged in a cover-up for over sixteen years, protecting a priest who was discovered to be in possession of child pornography in 1997, reports Twincities.com.
According to documents obtained by attorney Jeff Anderson, the cover-up protecting now-retired Rev. Donald J. Dummer involved church leaders including then-Vicar General Kevin McDonough, then-Archbishop Harry Flynn, and Rev. Joseph Hitpas, and reached as high as the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
In 1997 two employees at St. Mary’s church in downtown St. Paul discovered what they believed was child pornography in Rev. Dummer’s living quarters and brought the material to an archdiocese official. One of the employees described the item as a VHS tape of “boys 10-12 years of age playing basketball — nude.” The employee later discovered more videos, including one depicting homosexual sex between teenagers about 18 or 19 years old, by his estimation.
Months after archdiocese officials were first made aware of the possible child pornography, Dummer was assigned as chaplain at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center, now Regions Hospital.
Frustrated by the lack of response from church officials, the employee wrote a “to whom it may concern” letter in 2002 detailing the allegations. It was unclear from the documents who received the letter, but a group of concerned parents called Catholic Parents OnLine then wrote to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C., and included the man’s letter.
The group also included a packet of photos the employee had collected from Dummer’s quarters and “three (3) videos of a questionable nature.”
The nuncio, Montalvo, wrote to Flynn on Feb. 4, 2002, regarding what he had received and Flynn responded that he would address the issue with both Dummer and his immediate supervisor Rev. Hitpas.
Hitpas told Flynn over the phone that there had been “ongoing agitation” between the employee and Dummer, according to a letter written by Flynn. The staff member “has had emotional problems and Father Dummer doesn’t seem to have the sensitivity to recognize that but rather does things to aggravate him and these are usually minor liturgical violations,” the archbishop wrote.
Hitpas also wrote a letter to Flynn stating Dummer was embarrassed and apologetic, but “adamantly denies ever possessing any kind of child pornography.”
“He claims he has no other tapes. … I pointed out to him that any such material was inappropriate, and that he should check carefully and get rid of anything else that might be in his possession,” Hitpas wrote.
Flynn told Montalvo that Dummer would be moved out of St. Mary’s and into the oblates’ residence in St. Paul, where he would “experience more supervision.”
Flynn wrote that “as far as I am concerned I think we can bring this matter to a closure. I do not believe that this matter needs any further attention except the ongoing supervision of Father Dummer.”
According to the documents, Hitpas told Flynn in 2002, “I will dispose of the tapes.”
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the archdiocese said in a written statement this past Thursday that Dummer’s file was turned over to St. Paul police investigators in November 2013.
“Dummer is accused of possessing child pornography while he was living within the archdiocese,” Cozzens wrote. “Today, we would handle such allegations differently.”
In interviews earlier this year, now retired Archbishop Flynn claimed at least 134 times under oath that he “could not remember how he handled clergy sexual abuse cases during his 13-year tenure,”
Dummer, now 77, currently lives in an oblates residence in Tewksbury, Mass.
Attempts to reach the now-retired priest were unsuccessful.