Priest's Past Comes to Light
Church Knew Crowley Abused Boy for 8 Years before Moving to Anchorage
Timothy Crowley: Timeline of Priest's Abuses, Association with Anchorage Archdioces
By Nicole Tsong firstname.lastname@example.org
Anchorage Daily News [Anchorage AK]
November 16, 2003
For seven years, Catholic Church officials in Anchorage and Michigan protected the Rev. Timothy Crowley, quietly moving him from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Alaska without informing parishioners of his long history of sexually abusing a child there. Crowley lived at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in the Turnagain neighborhood, sometimes celebrated Mass, and served as a spokesman for the Anchorage Archdiocese.
Even when forced to expose Crowley under the new "zero-tolerance" policy adopted by American bishops last year, church officials in Michigan minimized his wrongdoing as a "one-time" event while leaders of the Anchorage Archdiocese praised his work as "invaluable to us in many, many different ways."
But recently released documents by Michigan police paint a far more sinister picture of Crowley than any of the characterizations drawn by his bishops.
Among those documents is the sworn statement of the victim, now a 30-year-old police officer in a small Michigan city, who said Crowley began molesting him when he was 10 and didn't stop until he turned 18. The series of sexual contacts at churches and a residence continued as Crowley progressed through three Michigan parishes before the relationship ended and Crowley acknowledged his sin to his bishop, but not authorities.
"During the entire time I was molested by Crowley, he constantly told me the conduct was 'OK' because he was a priest," the victim said in an affidavit.
In one of the most serious incidents he reported, the victim said that on one of his birthdays, Crowley celebrated by telling him he was going to give him a spanking, then held him down while another priest attempted to rape him.
The Daily News is withholding the man's name and some personal facts under its policy of not identifying victims of sexual crimes without their permission. Reached at the police headquarters in Michigan where he works, the man said he didn't want to talk about the case. Michigan prosecutors said the victim didn't want to press charges against Crowley and they were deferring to his request.
Crowley, answering the door at the home where he is now staying with retired Archbishop Francis Hurley, declined to comment. Crowley didn't respond to a series of written questions left for him a few days later.
Hurley, who invited Crowley to Alaska in 1995 and gave him a job in the archdiocese headquarters near the railroad yards on Cordova Street, also declined to comment when reached at home. Hurley said at a press conference last year that he believed Crowley to be a good risk because he underwent treatment, successfully passed psychological screening and was closely monitored.
Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz said recently that Crowley admitted abusing the victim, but Schwietz understood the abuse continued only about three years, not eight. Schwietz, who took over from Hurley in 2001, said the victim's affidavit is not in Crowley's personnel files here and he was unaware of the allegations in it.
A spokesman for the Lansing Diocese said in an e-mail that they gave all the information they had to Anchorage, but declined to answer other questions, including whether they sent copies of all documents to the archdiocese here.
The victim signed his two-page affidavit on Aug. 23, 1993, and submitted it to Lansing Bishop Kenneth J. Povish, who had settled with the victim for $200,000 three days earlier, according to the documents.
Michigan authorities began investigating priests whose names surfaced after the 2002 bishop's meeting in Dallas, which occurred amid the anguish of scandals in the Boston archdiocese and elsewhere. The Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney's office in Ann Arbor, where Crowley had his last parish, subpoenaed Crowley's files from the diocese headquarters.
The Daily News obtained the victim's affidavit, the settlement agreement and other records through a freedom of information request to Michigan State Police. The documents describe details of Crowley's abusive relationship, which started as early as 1982 and continued until at least 1990.
THE PATH TO ALASKA
Timothy M. Crowley was born in Jackson, Mich., on June 3, 1949. He was ordained on June 19, 1976, and was accepted into the Diocese of Lansing on June 3, 1982, according to a personnel fact sheet from the diocese.
He also received a doctorate in ministry from St. Mary College in Baltimore, where his dissertation was "A Model for Ministry to Troubled Adolescents," according to an April 2002 story published in the Ann Arbor News.
Crowley served first at St. Patrick Church in Brighton, Mich., in 1979 as an assistant chaplain before he moved a year later to Holy Rosary Church in Flint. He stayed there until June 1982.
His next ministry, still as an assistant chaplain, was in another city west of Detroit. It was there that the abuse began, the victim said.
By the victim's account, given to church officials when he was 20, the contact started with hugging, touching and similar types of physical contact when he was 10. But after a few months of touching, Crowley invited the boy to stay overnight at his rectory.
"There was only one bed in the room, which he asked me to share with him," the victim said in the affidavit. That was the first time he was fondled, the affidavit says.
But then the abuse turned to full sex, the victim said. Before the first time they had intercourse, Crowley told him the janitor had found some videos and magazines.
"He asked me to watch them with him and I agreed," according to the victim's account. "They were commercial pornographic homosexual films. Beginning at about that time, he started the anal intercourse."
Crowley also lowered the boy's inhibitions by frequently giving him alcohol, usually beer or Southern Comfort whiskey mixed with Coca-Cola, according to the affidavit.
In 1984, Crowley left to become pastor at St. Anthony Church in Hillsdale, Mich. He stayed for three years, then moved to St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Ann Arbor, church documents show. The boy says he was abused at the rectory at St. Anthony and at St. Thomas. He also was molested at Crowley's home in Michigan Center, the affidavit says.
The victim said that Crowley once helped another man molest him. In the affidavit, the victim says he was staying with Crowley in Hillsdale when a youth minister visited the home, though he didn't give the year. It was the boy's birthday, and the two men told the boy they were going to give him a birthday spanking. They took off his underwear, then Crowley held him down while the youth minister tried to have intercourse with the boy, according to the affidavit.
Crowley denied that the youth minister had anything to do with sexual activity with the victim, according to a memorandum from Lansing's files from March 2002 that was among the documents released by Michigan police. Bishop James A. Murray of the Diocese of Kalamazoo in Michigan also told a Lansing church official that he confronted the youth minister, who denied any involvement with the victim, the memorandum said.
Schwietz said he believes the victim's fiancee or wife was the first to tell the bishop in Lansing about the abuse. After the bishop met with Crowley, the priest resigned. His resignation letter from St. Thomas is dated Aug. 5, 1993.
Crowley's swift departure left his congregation dazed. At first, the diocese offered no explanation about why Crowley took an extended leave in summer 1993, only saying there was an investigation into undisclosed allegations, according to accounts in the Ann Arbor News. Parishioners were befuddled, and the parish council even was prepared in July to write a letter to the bishop in support of Crowley, asking that he be sent back.
More than two weeks after Crowley resigned, Bishop Povish appeared at Mass with the diocesan lawyer. He shocked parishioners when he told them that Crowley committed "grievous misconduct of a sexual nature" but offered no further explanation, except to say the victim did not attend their church.
Last year, Povish confirmed to the Ann Arbor News that Crowley abused a minor, but said it was a "one-time thing that involved one boy."
Povish died in September.
After Crowley left St. Thomas, he spent two years in a treatment program in Alma, Mich., for abusive priests before he contacted Hurley and asked if he could serve here, Schwietz said. Crowley was attracted to Alaska, Schwietz said.
Hurley spoke with the people who had treated Crowley, then with Bishop Povish, and then with his consultors, a group of six priests who advise him on important matters. Hurley decided to give Crowley an administrative position with certain restrictions, Schwietz said. He also went through a psychiatric evaluation, Hurley said last year.
Hurley said then that the response by counselors, Outside experts on sexual predation and his own advisers was so positive he thought Crowley should be able to enter a ministery.
Crowley's restrictions included not visiting any homes with children and not working with any youth ministry. He reported regularly to Hurley whenever he wanted to travel, and he had to report to a person with a background as a probation officer, Schwietz said. He lived at Our Lady of Guadalupe and could only say Mass.
"There's never been any hint of his doing anything wrong with anybody during this time," Schwietz said.
Michigan prosecutors in Ann Arbor say they could make a case against Crowley for their state's first-degree criminal sexual misconduct charge, which means sexual penetration using force with an aggravating factor, such as a victim younger than 13, use of a weapon, or injury beyond the assault.
Michigan is not barred by the statute of limitations on Crowley's case because he left the state before the statute ran out and the time out of state does not count in Michigan law, according to a legal decision by Rolland Sizemore, first assistant prosecutor in Washtenaw County. According to documents in the case, a change in state law eliminating the statute of limitations for first-degree criminal sexual misconduct applies to Crowley.
But the victim does not want to press charges, and the prosecutor's office is deferring to that request, said Joe Burke, Washtenaw's chief assistant prosecutor.
According to a report by the Michigan State Police, the victim said he was recently divorced and wanted to move on with his life.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing, Michael Diebold, refused to answer questions related to the details released by Washtenaw prosecutors. Diebold said the prosecutor violated a confidentiality agreement by handing over detailed information to the media.
"We cooperated in good faith with the Washtenaw prosecutor's office," Diebold said. "He has betrayed an agreement with us."
The agreement said that if there were no "actionable claims of sexual assault" in the files, prosecutors would not release the details, Diebold said.
The Daily News made a request in writing to speak with Lansing Bishop Carl Mengeling and another church official. Diebold responded in an e-mail, "The Diocese of Lansing has fully disclosed the information we have to Church authorities in Anchorage and to civil authorities in our own diocese."
Archbishop Schwietz and his official in charge of supervising priests, Vicar General Donald Bramble, said they understood from interviews with Crowley that the relationship he had with his victim lasted for three years, not the eight described by the victim.
Schwietz said Hurley told him he also didn't know about the victim's affidavit.
The Rev. Steven Moore, former vicar general for the archdiocese, said from Seattle that he also didn't recall hearing details about the youth minister's attempted rape as the archdiocese considered Crowley for a position. The archdiocese probably knew about the $200,000 settlement, he said.
The archdiocese felt secure in hiring Crowley because there had been only one victim and also because people from his treatment center said there was a "very small chance of recidivism with him abusing again," Schwietz said.
Crowley had ended the relationship and took steps to reform his life before the abuse became public, Schwietz said.
But the Anchorage Archdiocese inaccurately reported last year that the boy was 15 when he was abused. Brother Charles McBride, director of communications, told reporters he thought the boy was 15 based on a Dallas Morning News story he saw on the Internet. In a letter to the editor a month later, McBride corrected himself and said the boy was 11 after checking with the Lansing diocese, an age that was still off by a year under the victim's account.
Hurley said at a news conference last year that having assured himself Crowley was a good risk, he didn't reveal his background to parishioners or church staff members and wasn't sure he would do it differently if he could.
An expert in treating abusive priests, the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist and president of St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., has said the age of the victim is important in determining the likelihood that a perpetrator would repeat his offense. In an article published last year in America, the national Catholic weekly magazine, and distributed to parishioners in Anchorage, Rossetti said that men who abuse "post-pubescent minors" are "much more amenable to treatment" than pedophiles attracted to younger children.
Schwietz said he still feels responsible as a Catholic leader for taking care of Crowley and doesn't believe it right to abandon him. Crowley continues to work at the archdiocese in assignments that don't involve congregants or liturgy, and is now taking computer courses that could lead to work as an independent computer consultant, Schwietz said. Crowley was barred from acting as a priest in 2002 by the new Lansing bishop, who still had authority over him under the terms of Crowley's assignment here, and Crowley will not be allowed to do anything related to ministry, such as give blessings.
Schwietz said he prefers keeping Crowley here with the same restrictions he was under before, under which he never had problems, in addition to limits on his work.
"The route that I thought, and Archbishop Hurley felt too, the route that was the safest for everybody involved, was to keep him under the kind of restrictions that were there, the kind of monitoring that was there because it worked all these years," Schwietz said.
There's the added protection of publicity about his background, Schwietz said. Sending Crowley back to Michigan was not realistic, and Crowley wants to stay here, the archbishop said. But his status with the archdiocese is still pending.
"You have to live under some roof," said Bramble, the vicar general. "So he can live under a roof where you know what's going on or he can disappear into the walls."
Daily News reporter Nicole Tsong can be reached at email@example.com or 257-4450.
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