Priest Must Go, Bishop Says
He Says the New Buffalo Priest Who Admitted Having Sexual Relations with a Teen Will Be Removed from Ministry

Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
June 20, 2002

KALAMAZOO — Exactly when a New Buffalo priest will be removed from office and a replacement named is still in the works, Bishop James Murray said Tuesday.

Murray, head of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo, said he would meet today with the Rev. Thomas DeVita, pastor of Berrien County's St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church.

"We're talking in the near future he will be removed as pastor to never again have any part in ministry," Murray said.

DeVita, 55, is one of two priests in the diocese whose jobs were put on the line following the approval last week by United States bishops of a tough sexual abuse policy.

The other priest is the Rev. Leroy White, a retired clergyman from the diocese who served a parish in the Flint area.

Under the guidelines of the zero-tolerance policy, any priest who has had a sexual relationship with a minor or who has been involved in criminal sexual conduct with an adult must be taken out of the active priesthood.

Although these men might be able to remain priests, they no longer can say Mass, perform the sacraments or work as a priest for a Catholic charity.

DeVita admitted having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy while he served a New York City-area parish in the late 1970s.

White admitted having inappropriate sexual contact with a teen-ager and some women while serving as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Kalamazoo in the 1980s.

In March 1994, White retired from the priesthood at age 65. But he has worked at a church in the Flint area. He was removed from that job this year amid the Kalamazoo allegations.

Murray said he may refer White's case to an oversight panel that the bishop hopes to have in place by the end of July.


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