North Dakota concludes investigation of clerical sex abuse

Priest collar Credit  Gregory Dean via wwwshutterstockcom CNA Priest collar. / Gregory Dean via www.shutterstock.com.

An 18-month-long investigation into child sexual abuse in North Dakota's two dioceses has concluded, the state's attorney general announced Monday.

The investigation focused on a list of 53 men who had previously been identified by the dioceses of Bismarck and Fargo as being accused of sexual abuse. The dioceses considered the allegations against these 53 priests "substantiated."

The state identified one person, Fr. Odo Muggli, a priest of the Order of St. Benedict, whom they suspect abused at least one child. Muggli was not on the list of initial 53 names as he is not a diocesan priest. Muggli is accused of abusing a child in the 1970s.
Of the 53 names provided by the diocese, all but two were deceased at the time the lists were made public in 2019. Since then, one of those two priests has died.

The surviving priest, Fr. Norman Dukart, had his faculties permanently removed in 2002. Dukart is alleged to have sexually abused boys in the 1970s.

Neither Dukart nor Muggli can be criminally charged as the statute of limitations had expired by the time the allegations came to light.

"I regret it will not be possible to have these men face their victims at a trial and face the potential consequences, but I hope it brings a measure of comfort to the victims that these crimes were eventually investigated," said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem Jan. 4.

"While we are confident we have reviewed all the files of the Church, I remind anyone who has been a victim of clergy abuse that they can contact my office and we will review those allegations," he said.

The year-and-a-half-long investigation was done with the bishops of Bismarck and Fargo, and Stenehjem said he "appreciated" their cooperation.

The state was permitted to access all diocesan records relating to abuse by clergy. The state investigated all possible leads, including unsubstantiated allegations.

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