Photo Credits: Wikimedia
An Episcopal priest from Florida’s St. Peter’s Anglican Church has been accused of harassing and committing acts of sexual misconduct against young men who served under him. Eric Dudley of Tallahassee, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, resigned from his position as rector, after he abused the trust of several men.
A report by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an independent group that helps churches with abuse inquiries and investigated allegations against Dudley, illustrates how the priest pursued attractive young men, showering them with attention and gifts and giving them jobs at the church, even as he publicly espoused anti-gay views.
Beyond the misconduct committed by Dudley, the organization found that the church did not take "substantive action" in response to complaints against him for a number of years, which isn’t the first time the church didn’t punish its members.
One of his victims (John Doe) 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.
The next morning, John Doe woke up to Eric’s hands inside of John Doe’s shirt, rubbing his back and chest. John Doe asked Eric what he was doing, and Eric responded, “Just rubbing your back. I’ve never been this close to somebody before”…
The next morning, John Doe again awoke to Eric rubbing his chest under his shirt. John Doe immediately got out of bed. “At that point,” John Doe recalled, “I was disgusted with myself and angry at him. Ultimately, not sure what to do.” They went to the meeting at the church, then talked about the situation. John Doe said that he told Eric that it was “very strange,” but Eric “continued to insist that it was not erotic and compared his feelings to wanting to cuddle with his son.”
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.
As the report says, “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.”
Dudley had been accused of misconduct for years, but the church did nothing until new claims emerged last year, the Democrat reports. When he resigned, he “admitted to harassment, unwanted touching and alcohol abuse,” according to the paper. But the GRACE report says he should have taken more responsibility for his deeds, having apologized for them only in a “vague” manner. He did not cooperate in the investigation and declined comment to the Democrat.