We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.



Northwest Minnesota priest cleared of child sex abuse; deacon now faces similar allegations

Deacon Aaron Kaiser, a pastoral associate for an office that managed youth camps and rallies, has been placed on administrative leave. The Rev. Patrick Sullivan will return to ministry work.

We are part of The Trust Project.

CROOKSTON, Minn. — Just days after a priest in the Crookston Catholic Diocese was cleared of sexually abusing a minor, leadership announced a deacon who oversaw youth camps is under investigation for similar accusations.

Deacon Aaron Kaiser has been placed on administrative leave pending the probe into allegations of child sex abuse, according to a news release issued June 11. He has been removed from ministry.

“Also pending the investigation’s conclusion and in accordance with Canon Law, Deacon Kaiser is afforded the presumption of innocence and a right to his good reputation,” the release said. “To protect the integrity of the investigation, no further comments on the matter will be made at this time.”

Aaron Kaiser


The statement didn’t give details about the accusations, including when and where they allegedly occurred.

A former branch manager for Riverwood Bank in Bagley, Minn., Kaiser became a deacon in 2017 and was assigned to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the same city, according to the diocese’s official newspaper, Our Northland Diocese. He was promoted to the position of pastoral associate for the diocese’s Formation in Discipleship Office in October 2019.

The office manages youth camps and rallies, among other forms of missionary work.

Father Patrick Sullivan
Father Patrick Sullivan

The news of Kaiser’s allegations came three days after Crookston Bishop Richard Pates announced that misconduct accusations against the Rev. Patrick Sullivan were not credible. Sullivan was placed on administrative leave in February 2019 after a report of “boundary issues” was filed with the diocese.

“Father Sullivan is to be highly commended for the dignity with which he carried himself throughout these years of investigation,” Pates said in a statement. “It has been very difficult for him.”

It was the second time Sullivan faced an investigation involving minors. In 2017, former Bishop Michael Hoeppner allowed Sullivan to return to ministry work after finding that accusations of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in 2008 at the St. Mary's Mission Church in Red Lake, Minn., were unfounded.


He was then reinstated as a priest at St. Andrew's in Hawley, Minn., and St. Elizabeth's in Dilworth, Minn.

Since the latest investigation has concluded, Sullivan will be assigned to the Catholic churches of St. Joseph in Ada, Minn., St. William in Twin Valley, Minn., and Holy Family in Halstad, Minn., beginning July 1.

Hoeppner resigned in April at the request of Pope Francis. The bishop was investigated for reports that he covered up child sex abuse by clergy members in the diocese.

He was the first bishop in the U.S. to face such a probe under new rules put in place by Pope Francis. The move aimed to standardize protocols for investigating sexual abuse that involved church leaders.

Hoeppner, who was 71 when he resigned, apologized in a statement for “failures in governing.”

The Crookston Diocese covers northwest Minnesota and encompasses cities including Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, East Grand Forks and Bemidji.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
What to read next
Academic honors
Sauk Rapids resident Lyndon Johnson will share some of what he has learned over the course of 28 years of collecting agates.
The levy is a 9.4% increase from last year's final levy.
In addition to the soliciting charge, Kolden has been charged with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child.