Few records remain of Father Lawrence Dudink, a member of the Society of the Divine Word religious order. But those in existence show he was convicted of abducting a child. They also show that upon his release from prison for this crime, the Diocese of Joliet allowed Dudink to reside in a retreat house for children with full knowledge of his conviction.
Wisconsin authorities charged Dudink with kidnapping a 17 year old girl in November 1960. He allegedly snatched her from a hospital just hours after she had been admitted “for treatment of a nervous condition”; he then took her to Arizona, where he held her in a motel for over a month before he was caught and arrested. His religious order apparently sought to explain his actions by describing him as a “reformed alcoholic.” In December 1960, Dudink pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of abduction and was sentenced to three years in a Wisconsin prison. He served barely a year, however, before being released in January 1962.
Now Dudink needed a court-approved location for supervised parole. The Diocese of Joliet opened its doors to him. In December 1961, Bishop Martin McNamara granted Dudink permission to reside at the LaSalle Manor in Plano. The bishop warned Dudink he could not perform priestly functions, wear clerical garb, leave without permission, or have contact with the “girl involved in the case” or her family.
But there was one glaring issue: LaSalle Manor was also home of the Christian Brothers Retirement House for Boys, which hosted retreats for children. Bishop McNamara spotted this problem in advance. He arranged for a psychiatric evaluation of Dudink and asked for the advice of a Catholic priest ministering at Dudink’s prison in Wisconsin. McNamara’s requests and their responses suggest that Dudink sexually abused the child whom he kidnapped; indeed, one explicitly evaluated whether Dudink would pose a “sex danger” to children. Even so—despite knowing that Dudink had likely abused a child and that housing him at LaSalle Manor would give him access to children—McNamara still granted Dudink permission to reside there beginning in January 1962.
The Attorney General’s investigators asked the Diocese of Joliet to add Dudink to its list of credibly accused abusers. As evidence, the investigators pointed to Dudink’s conviction for abducting a teenage girl and the letter evaluating his risk as a potential “sex danger” to children. The diocese declined to name Dudink, however, because “he was neither charged with nor convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.”