A DAMNING investigative report released in the US this week reveals that Eric Dudley – founder of St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral in Tallahassee and an outspoken opponent of homosexuality – abused aspiring priests and other young men.
After Dudley, above, was forced to resign, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) – an independent group that helps churches with abuse inquiries – conducted an investigation into allegations against the priest and found that he pursued attractive young men, showering them with attention and gifts and giving them jobs at the church.
And all the while he railed against homosexuality!
GRACE found that the Florida church – turned into a cathedral at the beginning of 2018 – did not take “substantive action” in response to complaints against him for a number of years. Its report said some members and leaders at St Peter’s knew about misconduct complaints against Dudley since 2011 but that nothing was done until more allegations surfaced last year.
St Peter’s said in a statement:
This has been a sad chapter in the history of this extraordinary Church. The report documents the profound pain suffered by the victims of this abuse, and we are deeply sorry for what happened and especially for any actions or inactions that the church and its members may have taken that increased their suffering.
St Peter’s notified its congregation of the GRACE report and its findings in a Monday letter and posted the document online Tuesday. It includes a dozen recommendations, including revising policies on sexual misconduct and the protection of children and putting in place a safeguard team to respond to violations and help victims.
Dudley served as rector of St John’s Episcopal Church from 1995 to 2005, when he announced from the pulpit one Sunday morning he was leaving to start a new church over what he called “deeply unrepentant heresies” in the Episcopal Church. The announcement came as a shock to many in the congregation.
Married with three children, Dudley was dismayed that an openly gay priest had been consecrated as a bishop in New Hampshire — a first for a major Christian denomination. He took half of St John’s congregation with him when he launched St Peter’s, which met in Midtown until a new multi-million dollar cathedral was completed in 2014 on Thomasville Road under the more conservative Anglican Church in North America.
One of his victims told investigators Dudley arranged for a hotel room with a single king-size bed when the two of them went on an out-of-state trip, though the rector blamed the accommodations on a front-desk mistake. The victim, identified only as “John Doe,” was shocked after he woke up one morning with Dudley rubbing his back and chest. He said:
Eric is known as the guy who hates gay people. We’re the church that built our church based on anti-homosexuality … so no way this guy is coming on to me. I’m misreading him.
“Father Eric,” as he was called by his congregation, served as rector at St Peter’s until August 2018, when he agreed to resign after several men came forward. He admitted harassment, unwanted touching and alcohol abuse. However, the report said Dudley never took full responsibility for his actions and offered only a “vague apology” for “inappropriate actions.”Dudley, who declined to cooperate with investigators, maintained he was only showing affection toward the men in question and his behavior was not sexual in nature. The report, however, said that “the evidence suggests otherwise.” Dudley declined to comment when reached by the Tallahassee Democrat.
The report said Dudley secretly arranged on multiple occasions for only one bed in hotel rooms he arranged for himself and the victims. The touching often took place in bed, with Dudley dressed in his underwear and reaching under the victim’s clothing to touch the him. On at least one occasion, Dudley said he was becoming physically aroused as he laid on top of the victim.
A witness who worked many years at the church told investigators of:
A pattern of young males that seemed to have captured our rector’s eye.
Another said Dudley appeared drawn to good-looking, thin and fit young men, the kind “that women notice when they walk into a room.”
The Rev Robert Duncan, bishop in residence at St. Peter’s noted that the church entered into “restoration” with Dudley’s victims, including providing financial support, counseling and leaves of absences.
We are profoundly sorry for what happened to the victims and their families and faithful people who trusted their shepherd and the safety of their church. We’re profoundly sorry that a shepherd would hurt his sheep.
The report found that each of his victims were young, with their own vulnerabilities.
Once Father Eric developed enough trust in his relationships with the reported victims, he would use abusive tactics to further manipulate them. Again, Father Eric followed a pattern, exploiting his reported victims emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically.
John Doe was in seminary when he met Dudley and later moved to Tallahassee with his family, taking a part-time job under his supervision. He said their mentoring and employment relationship gradually became more of a friendship, with the two going out together for meals and movies.
After he was ordained as a priest, Dudley took him on a $700 shopping spree at his favorite store and offered him a full-time job. Dudley told him he wanted him to succeed him one day at St Peter’s. After the incident in the hotel room, Dudley made overtures again when the two were alone in the victim’s bedroom at his house.
Employees at St Peter’s complained to investigators about Dudley’s problems with anger. They said he yelled and screamed, banged his fists on his desk and made employees cry. Workers also complained that Dudley made them feel uncomfortable when he walked around shirtless at a staff retreat.
The GRACE report noted that 51 witnesses were interviewed over the course of the investigation. The evidence included audio and video recordings of some of the incidents described by victims, hundreds of pages of emails and text messages and church documents.
Dudley was given a severance package equal to a year’s pay to help him and his family. The payment was given with the understanding Dudley would cooperate in the investigation, but “he did nothing of the sort.”
As a result of the Dudley case, the Anglican Church in North America changed the way it responds to allegations of clergy misconduct, the GRACE report said. The diocese completely revised its sexual abuse policy to include “greater provisions” for responding to allegations of adult sexual abuse.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn