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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee




Courageous victim speaks out - corruption in Memphis exposed 06/25/2006

Father Dan DuPree . . . breach of trust
by Patrick

On its website, the Catholic Diocese of Memphis acknowledges that " . . . sexual abuse by clergy constitutes one of the most serious breaches of trust in human relationships, and that it can have devastating consequences for the victim and his or her family . . . "  Although that is a very true statement, I don't believe the Diocese of Memphis truly understands the devastation caused when one of its priests breaches that trust.  I say this from my experiences with Father Dan DuPree, sexual abuse, and the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.

Father Dan DuPree first came into my life in 1984 when I was a freshman at Christian Brothers High School.  I remember my mom telling me about this young new priest who was going to revive the youth group at our church, the Catholic Church of the Resurrection.  My family had been members there from the beginning of the parish.  My family made ourselves at home there by participating in many of the functions.  My dad belonged to the men's club and to the Knights of Columbus.  My older brothers had, at some point in their childhood, been altar boys.  Being the youngest, it was with great enthusiasm that I followed their leads.  Before Dan's arrival the sole priest at Resurrection was Monsignor Paul Morris, an older priest who seemed very caring and pastoral, but at the same time, very routine.  Dan's arrival brought with him new life to the church; a spark of freshness and energy not experienced before in that church house.  Unlike Monsignor Morris, Dan was more like us teenagers instead of our parents.  It was a wonderful time.  He quickly became a family friend and, more accurately, a family member.  He visited for dinner quite often.  He helped me become a better and more relaxed altar boy.  He performed my brother's wedding ceremony in 1985.  Our youth group went with Father Dan to Louisville KY for a youth convention.  When I could drive I began tending the lawn at church.  At the time, there was only the church building and parking lot so this left a very large field for me to maintain.  Every week during the summer I would go and spend the day at church for this.  I would often have lunch at the rectory with Monsignor Morris, Florida, Dan DuPree, and eventually Ernie DeBlasio.  All in all I was truly welcomed there as if it were my own home.  My friendship with Dan grew into that of a true friend.  In my eyes he was my connection with my religion and at one point I even began considering following his steps.  I felt closer to Father Dan than I did my own brothers.

    During Christmas holiday break in 1985 Dan asked me if I wanted to go to Texarkana TX with him to visit his family. Naturally I was excited and my parents had no objections.  By then our trust and faith in Father Dan was unshakable.  He and I left one evening around 6-7 PM.  I was very excited looking forward to a 3 day trip to a place I had never been before.  All throughout my life I rarely went anywhere new.  It was only with Dan that this began to change.  The drive was enjoyable as we talked about different things ranging from the trivial to the profound.  Although our destination was Texarkana he stopped in Little Rock to spend the night because it was getting late.  Once settled in the room, the abuse began.  I tried to plead with him to stop but I couldn't get the words out very loudly.  It was like when I would have a nightmare and I couldn't scream.  I could get my mouth open and form the words but no sound would escape from my body.  One of the things I remember thinking was how I couldn't tell anyone about this.  I didn't know what to do.  I didn't really have any other close friends besides Dan.  He was my life; and here he was doing these things to me and enjoying it.

The next morning we woke up, checked out, and finished our car trip to Texarkana.  All the while my mind reeled with the events of the night before but I was too embarrassed to say anything.  I was scared to bring them up because I was embarrassed and ashamed of what had happened the night before.  I couldn't talk about it so I didn't.  Father Dan did not mention it either.  We passed the time talking about other things such as the upcoming family events in Texarkana.

When we arrived at his parents' house we were welcomed by most of his family.  Dan's parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews were there for the holiday.  The holiday dinner was large and joyous.  Even I received a present when it was time.  It wasn't anything super but it was a gift none-the-less.  The day was a happy one but at night I had to share Father Dan's bed because of space.  That night was a repeat of the one before except his hands and mouth were on me quicker this time.  I still asked him to stop and told him no but again it was useless.  From there the night unfolded as it had the night prior.  I remember being scared to make too much noise or too much protest.  The rest of the trip was a repeat of those nights.  During the day we hung out and did fun things but at night I endured his wants.

After a few days our trip ended and we returned home.  Things quickly resumed their former ways.  School resumed and life went on.  Dan still was a close member of my family and we still were close friends.  He was also working at my high school as a guidance counselor and chaplain.  He was a hit at CBHS.  Both the students and teachers liked him; after all, he was a "cool priest".  I felt proud because I knew him first.  He was "my priest".  He was at CBHS for a couple of years but eventually he was moved from Resurrection to St. Mary's parish in Jackson, TN.  This was only an hour away so our youth group still did some things with Father Dan and the youth group in Jackson.  During one of these trips to join in a St. Mary's youth group activity, I spent the night in Jackson with Dan.  Things happened just as they had before; a virtual repeat of the abuse.  Father Dan then later moved to St. Andrews in Lexington, TN.  This was just a little farther from Memphis.  By this time I was getting ready to be married, I wasn't really enjoying life but just going through the motions.  Dan was still in close contact with my family at the time and we were still friends so I asked him to perform the wedding.  It was sort of expected since he did my brother's wedding as well and had baptized my nephew.  Part of the wedding involved a marriage preparation to be completed by the priest so my fiance and I drove to Lexington the weekend before the wedding.  We stayed with Dan who, since we weren't married, had my fiance sleep in the spare room and I slept in his room.  We did this for 2 nights and each night was a re-enactment of the other nights I spent with Father Dan.  And each day we acted as if nothing had happened.  Father Dan DuPree performed our wedding the next weekend.  A few months later my wife and I spent a week's vacation with Dan in Lexington.  We both slept in the spare room.  That was the first time I had ever slept under the same roof as Dan and he did not abuse me.

Sometime later in 1991 Dan was returned to Memphis and stationed at Holy Rosary.  By the fall of 1991 I had moved from Memphis but still visited occasionally.  During one of these visits I discovered he was gone.  He simply vanished and no one knew where.  In 1992 I received a phone call out of the blue from Monsignor Peter Buchignanni.  I had heard of him before but I did not know who he was. In a short conversation he told me there were some concerns with Father Dan's actions with the youth group.  He asked me if my relationship with Dan was ever inappropriate.  He never mentioned the true nature of their "concern" or anything alluding to abuse.  Of course I played dumb and told him everything was fine.  By then I had kept the secret for 6 years.  I wasn't going to reveal it to a stranger over the telephone.  Over the next 10 years I lived my life in hell.  Slowly my marriage fell apart and I divorced to begin life anew.  In 2002 I was coming home from a friend's wedding and I was feeling depressed because I had been all alone, once again, at some celebration.  That had become typical in my life.  I could not bond with others.  I could not be at ease enough to simply relax and enjoy a relationship.  I was driving home thinking about all of these things when the truth hit me.  I finally saw the source of my pain.  A fog had lifted in my head and I saw for the first time how Father Dan's sexual abuse had hurt me.

One of the first things I did was contact Monsignor Buchignanni to correct the answers I gave him in 1992 regarding Dan DuPree.  After my meeting with Buchignanni in 2002, I began seeing a counselor to help me with the abuse.  My counselor and I met with Bishop Terry Steib and Deacon Chuck Wells in 2004 to discuss the abuse.  During this meeting I was told that Dan had admitted to the abuse and that he had given a list of the names of his victims. I was contacted by Monsignor Buchignanni because I was named on the list.  I was also told that the diocese had contacted DHS but nothing was done because of my age at the time of discovery.  In later letters between Bishop Steib and me, I have been told that Father Dan was first accused of abuse in 1992.  He was questioned, confirmed the accusation, and named 15 victims ranging in ages from 15 to 21.  He acknowledged the abuses took place from 1985 until 1992.  Although the church claims its lawyers have contacted the appropriate department of DHS, I have been unable to confirm this.  DHS has not found any record of Dan DuPree's sexual abuse.  I have requested from the Diocese of Memphis the names of these lawyers and the name of the specific person with DHS who was contacted by the diocese.  They have not replied to this request.  Nor have they acknowledged Dan's abuse to any of the parishes or schools at which Dan was assigned.  I have asked the diocese to issue a statement disclosing Father Dan DuPree's abuse and treatment along with a listing of everywhere he was assigned but they have not complied.  Instead their response has been to refer me to the Diocesan Review Board.  When I questioned the usefulness and purpose of the review board, I was met with silence.  From what I can tell, the purpose of the review board is to determine the credibility of sexual abuse claims made against their clerics.  The credibility of Dan's abuse was affirmed in 1992 when he confessed to his crimes.  Also, since his Church-sanctioned 'treatment' following his discovery, Dan DuPree has lived in St. Louis and worked for the Catholic Charities there.  He was involved with their program for grandparents raising their grandchildren.  Was the St. Louis Diocese aware of his abusive past?  Were teenagers at risk of sexual abuse by an admitted sex offender?  In late 2002 he moved from St. Louis to Texarkana where he began working for the city.

Although the statute of limitations can wipe an abuser's responsibility clean, no such reprieve is offered to the victims.  We are left to deal with devastating consequences of our priest's touch.  The effects of Dan's sexual abuse have been extensive and far reaching.  His actions have been very costly to me.  As we all are, I am who I am today as a result of moments in my past.  Most of these moments have been either innocuous or easily overcome.  However, the horrible moments in my past that involve Dan DuPree's sexual abuse have been extremely influential in my life.  Every day of my life since he first crossed that line I have been affected by Dan DuPree's actions.  Because of my priest, I’'ve had to deal with massive shame and guilt.  I've had to try to live a "normal" life while hiding an abnormal past.  I've had to rediscover my spirituality because the one my parents' instilled in me was corrupted with Dan's semen.  I still have many things to resolve.  I am still working to redevelop myself to change the coping skills I learned as a child.  Issues like trust, touch, and male bonding will most likely be lifetime problems for me.  The result of Dan's abuse has been and will continue to be a very powerful influence in my life.

From approximately 1984 until 1992, Dan DuPree was a priest at several parishes throughout the mid-south.  He was, at one time or another, located at the Church of the Resurrection and Holy Rosary in Memphis, St Mary's in Jackson TN, St. Andrew's in Lexington TN.  He was a religious counselor at CBHS from 1985 to 1987 and he worked at the Catholic Center at Memphis State University in the late 80s/early 90s.  During this time he also was a predator who sexually abused teenage boys.  He acknowledged abusing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 young people.  Did he truthfully list all of his victims?  From all of his stations, he was exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of teenagers.  The likelihood of additional victims is great.  His actions were not only vile and repulsive to the spirit of these boys, they were also criminal.  Yet, he has been allowed to remain unpunished for his crimes and the Diocese of Memphis has helped him achieve this freedom.  Additionally, the diocese remains steadfast in their stance regardless of their statements of compassion and moral obligations.  Honest questions I have given them have been met with silence and re-direction.  I have asked point blank for information regarding their contact with DHS.  I have asked them to explain why they thought I would reach through my shame and disgust to reveal my secret to a complete stranger over the telephone after a 5-10 minute call which never mentioned possible abuse.  I have asked them to apologize to my mother and my wife.  They are indirect victims of Father Dan DuPree's touch.  These requests are still on their table but most likely will never be addressed by them.

I agree with the Diocese of Memphis' statement that  " . . . sexual abuse by clergy constitutes one of the most serious breaches of trust in human relationships, and that it can have devastating consequences for the victim and his or her family. . . " but from the response I've received from the Diocese of Memphis, I fail to see where they have a true understanding of this breach of trust.