FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A former Fargo priest says he is not remorseful for sexual assault incidents that happened dozens of years ago.
New documents revealed his name, Martin Cullen, as well as 52 other North Dakota Catholic priests who were moved to other churches after being accused of sexually abusing minors.
Three lawyers held a press conference in Fargo on Thursday stating they are making it their business to change state laws for victims of sexual abuse.
“What we're doing today is asking the legislature to open up a window so that these survivors can come forward all at the same time,” Tatum O’Brien, one of three lawyers who spoke, said.
O’Brien added, “and tell their story and have justice and make these dioceses and these priests accountable for their actions.”
The attorneys want lawmakers to allow those sexually abused as kids by clergy members to be able to still sue the Catholic Church for damages years after the incidents occurred. It's a change other states, including Minnesota, have done.
According to the lawyers, the North Dakota Attorney General's Office is investigating the Fargo and Bismarck Catholic Dioceses.
“They have requested at the attorney general's office that if any victims come forward to contact the attorney general's office and they will do a criminal investigation,” Tim O’Keefe said.
Dozens of pages were provided by the attorneys that list the history of where the priest worked.
“You now have the names of the list they put out, we believe there's more names,” Michael Bryant said.
The pages showed the priest where oftentimes moved to another church after being credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.
Martin Cullen, who lives in Fargo, was removed from the ministry in 1992.
By phone, Cullen told us he sexually abused two kids. While he regrets the emotional abuse his victims may feel, Cullen said he isn't sorry.
Another priest mentioned was Fernando Sayasaya who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for molesting two children in Cass County.
Abraham Anthony was charged in Stutsman County for sex crimes against boys in 2000, but fled to India and then died before he could be arrested.
The Fargo and Bismarck Catholic Dioceses put out a statement that both are cooperating with the attorney general's office in its investigation.
Below is their full release.
The Diocese of Bismarck and the Diocese of Fargo follow comprehensive safe environment policies. These policies include criminal background checks of all Church personnel who work with or around children, and training of clergy, employees, volunteers, and parents regarding safe environment practices. The dioceses also cooperate with outside auditors to annually conduct an audit to assess whether the dioceses comply with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. The results of these audits are published every year.
Early in January 2020, the dioceses published the results of their separate internal reviews of all of their clergy files and named each cleric (priest or deacon) who was the subject of a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. These reviews included at least all those clerics serving back to 1950.
Beginning in the summer of 2019, the Dioceses of Fargo and Bismarck entered into discussions with the Office of the North Dakota Attorney General. Based on those discussions it was agreed that the dioceses and the Attorney General’s office had common goals of taking all reasonable measures to protect minors from sexual abuse; ensuring that no cleric with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor remains in ministry; protecting the identity of alleged victims; and bringing sexual perpetrators to justice by prosecuting them when possible.
The dioceses permitted the Attorney General’s trained investigators from the ND Bureau of Criminal Investigation to review the files for their deacons, priests, and bishops. This external civil review is almost complete. The dioceses are confident that this external review will confirm that they have no clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor remaining in ministry, and that they have had no substantiated allegations of any cleric’s sexual abuse of a minor for almost 20 years. The dioceses also invited the Attorney General’s office to review their safe environment policies and practices and suggest improvements.
As always, if any person believes that he or she is a victim of sexual abuse by any priest, deacon, bishop, employee, or volunteer working for either Diocese, a Catholic parish, or a Catholic school, the person should promptly report to law enforcement and to the Diocese of Bismarck (701-204-7216) or the Diocese of Fargo (701-356-7965).