Richfield priest put on leave after past abuse allegation

The Rev. Gerald Dvorak, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Richfield, Minn., has taken a leave of absence following an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s, according to a statement from Archbishop John Nienstedt released Tuesday.

Nienstedt called the allegation "credible" but did not provide details. "A 'credible allegation' is one that is 'not manifestly false or frivolous.' It is not a presumption of guilt," he wrote.

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In a separate two-line statement, also released by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Dvorak denied the allegation. "I pray for all victims of sexual abuse, but I have never abused anyone," he wrote. "Please pray for me and all those involved."

Dvorak, 61, could not be reached for comment. He did not immediately respond to a phone message on Tuesday.

Tom Halden, the director of the archdiocese's communications office, said Nienstedt was unavailable for an interview. He also declined to explain when and how Nienstedt learned of the allegation.

In his statement, Nienstedt said, "Law enforcement has been notified." Halden declined to provide the name of the law enforcement agency, the person who reported it, or the date it was reported.

St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Steve Linders said police have no record of any report of abuse by Dvorak. In Richfield, where Dvorak has been serving as pastor since 2011, police also have no record of any report of abuse, according to Richfield Deputy Police Chief Mike Koob. The Minneapolis Police Department also has no record of a report, according to spokesperson John Elder.

The archdiocese hasn't said where the abuse allegedly happened. In a letter to parishioners at St. Peter on Tuesday, Deacon Mark Johanns said Dvorak "has been accused of sexual abuse of a minor from when he was a seminarian in the 1970s. That is the only accusation against him in all of his years in ministry."

Dvorak was ordained a priest in the Twin Cities archdiocese in 1985 and has served at eight parishes, according to an assignment history released by the archdiocese. Dvorak's current assignment — as pastor of St. Peter in Richfield — began July 1, 2011.

He previously served as canonical administrator of Blessed Trinity Catholic School from July 2011 to July 2014, pastor of St. Joseph in Hopkins from September 2002 to July 2011, pastor of St. Michael in St. Paul from June 1989 to September 2002, parochial administrator of St. Andrew in St. Paul from January 1989 to June 1989, parochial administrator of Holy Cross in Minneapolis from October 1987 to June 1989, spiritual director of the local branch of the Legion of Mary from March 1987 to June 1989, parochial administrator of Saint Cyril in Minneapolis from June 1986 to March 1987, assistant priest of Holy Cross in Minneapolis from June 1984 to June 1989, and assistant priest of the Cathedral of St. Paul from June 1979 to June 1984.

Before he was ordained, Dvorak served as a "teaching parish seminarian" at St. Matthew in St. Paul from 1978 to 1979, according to the archdiocese.

Dvorak "will not exercise priestly ministry during the investigation," Nienstedt wrote in his statement. "We are in the process of notifying the previous parishes where he was assigned. Rev. Dvorak has never had any other allegations against him during his ministry."