Eric Dudley, a married, anti-gay pastor described as “a larger-than-life figure in the Episcopal and Anglican churches for decades” in Florida, sexually abused multiple young men and aspiring priests, “exploiting his reported victims emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically,” according to an independent investigation released by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an independent group that assists churches with abuse inquiries.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports: ‘“Father Eric,” as he was called by his congregation, served as rector at St. Peter’s until August 2018, when he agreed to resign after several men came forward. Dudley admitted to harassment, unwanted touching and alcohol abuse. However, the report said Dudley never took full responsibility for his actions and offered only a “vague apology” for “inappropriate actions.” Dudley, who declined to cooperate with investigators, maintained he was only showing affection toward the men in question and his behavior was not sexual in nature. The report, however, said that “the evidence suggests otherwise.”’
The sexual abuse survivors cited in the Democrat‘s report have many stories to tell: “The report said Dudley secretly arranged on multiple occasions for only one bed in hotel rooms he arranged for himself and the victims. The touching often took place in bed, with Dudley dressed in his underwear and reaching under the victim’s clothing to touch the him. On at least one occasion, Dudley said he was becoming physically aroused as he laid on top of the victim.”
One of the aspiring priests, called John Doe in the report, described an attack by Dudley: “After the incident in the hotel room, Dudley made overtures again when the two were alone in the victim’s bedroom at his house. The victim told investigators he showed Dudley his new bed and the rector responded by asking him to lay down with him. The victim hesitated but obliged. Dudley got on top of him and started kissing him before taking off his shirt and the victim’s shirt. After Dudley said he was becoming aroused, the victim shoved him off his body and said he wouldn’t have sex with him. Dudley put his clothes on and stormed out of the house, the victim reported. But he returned the next day with an explanation. ‘I don’t want to run away to California,’ Dudley said. ‘I’m not gay. I’m not into that. I just, I need your, I’m an affectionate person. I need to be touched by you.'”
Another survivor said Dudley showed up at his house after not answering the phone: “Dudley showed up at his house, beating on the front door and screaming for him. He watched as Dudley ran around the house yelling, ‘I know you’re in there!’ Afraid Dudley would break out the glass of a rear door, the victim finally answered but refused to let him in. Dudley cried and said he couldn’t believe how he was being treated ‘after everything I’ve done for you.’ The victim apologized, though he couldn’t explain why to investigators.”
Dudley was forced to resign in 2018 and was given a year’s pay in severance after agreeing to cooperate the investigation, a promise he didn’t keep. There is much more in the Tallahassee Democrat’s report.