FARGO — The brother of former North Dakota Gov. George A. Sinner has been named in a list of Fargo Diocese officials who were accused of sexually abusing children — a revelation that “absolutely stunned” his family, one relative said.

Catholic leaders released on Thursday, Jan. 2, the Fargo Diocese's list of 31 clergy and religious brothers who the diocese believes were credibly accused. On that list was the late Rev. Richard W. Sinner, who was ordained in 1952 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo. He was 78 years old when he died Jan. 28, 2004.

Former Gov. George Sinner
Former Gov. George Sinner

Former North Dakota Sen. George B. Sinner, a Fargo Democrat who is the late Gov. Sinner's son and the Rev. Sinner's nephew, said he first heard about his uncle's inclusion on the list through news reports.

“I’ve talked to several of my family members, and it’s all the same way. Nobody knew anything,” George B. Sinner said. “We were never told anything about any accusations whatsoever.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

A Fargo Diocese spokesperson did not return messages for questions regarding the Rev. Sinner. The list doesn’t disclose the details of the allegations against the Rev. Sinner or other clergy.

The Rev. Sinner did not face criminal charges. His obituary says he retired as a priest in 1998, but the diocese's list states he was “removed from ministry.”

The Rev. Sinner served as a priest in the North Dakota cities of Grand Forks, Fargo, Marion, Montpelier, Argusville, Orrin and Fulda, according to his obituary. He also was a minister in Minnesota in Duluth, White Earth Reservation, Ogema, Kent and Ponsford.

He later went to Arizona as a priest in Phoenix and Tucson from 1979 to 1982, along with a brief stint at Arizona State Prison.

The news that the diocese found the Rev. Sinner was credibly accused of sexually abusing a child is difficult to hear, George B. Sinner said, but “it’s difficult for all of those people (the survivors) who lived through it."

George B. Sinner
George B. Sinner

The family is more concerned about whether the Catholic Church will address the issue of sexual abuse in the diocese and continue to help victims, George B. Sinner said.

“That’s what’s got to be done here,” he said. “The Church has got to step up and take care of these folks and do all they can.”