Victims Group Puts Spotlight on Priest
Vatican Reinstated Accused Valley Cleric in February
By Tim Sheehan email@example.com
The Fresno Bee
September 1, 2004
A national group of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is sounding an alarm over a former Lemoore Naval Air Station chaplain accused of abusing a Michigan minor about 30 years ago.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, sent letters to Hanford police and school officials about the Rev. Brian Bjorklund, a Roman Catholic priest since 1966.
As The Bee reported last year, Bjorklund worked at the Lemoore base for two years -- conducting Mass and counseling personnel -- until the Archdiocese of Detroit suspended him in July 2003.
The church placed Bjorklund, 64, on administrative leave and restricted him from public ministry as it investigated an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor during his early years in the clergy, long before he joined the Navy in 1988. The Navy also removed him from his chaplain's post.
In February, the Vatican reinstated Bjorklund as an active priest. Vatican officials said the alleged contact was not a violation of church law at the time in the 1970s, but is now. Dennis McGrath, a spokesman for the Lemoore base, was unable to confirm Bjorklund's naval status. He said Navy officials in San Diego were checking with the military's Bureau of Personnel in Tennessee on whether Bjorklund had been discharged administratively.
According to The Associated Press, police in Michigan were told of the single abuse allegation last year but did not investigate because the statute of limitations had expired.
In a statement Tuesday, SNAP southwest regional director Mary Grant urged the church's Fresno diocese as well as Hanford police and school officials to warn residents about Bjorklund's presence in the community.
"We are very troubled that children are needlessly being placed at risk of abuse in the Fresno diocese," Grant said.
Phone calls to Bjorklund's home in Hanford went unreturned Tuesday.
Bill Lucido, director of communications for the Diocese of Fresno, said Bishop John Steinbock had received a letter from SNAP but noted that Steinbock has no authority over the priest.
Bjorklund "does not work for nor is he associated with the Diocese of Fresno," Lucido said.
Authority over military chaplains, when they leave the service, reverts back to the priest's home diocese, he said.
Archdiocese of Detroit spokesman Ned McGrath confirmed Tuesday that Bjorklund was reinstated as a priest in the archdiocese but said he has no parish assignment. "That's still under consideration," McGrath said.
He could not say whether Bjorklund is living in Hanford, nor did he know if or when the archdiocese may assign Bjorklund to a working post. The abuse allegation, he added, "would certainly be a factor in trying to find the right place for him."
When he was suspended by the Detroit archdiocese and the Navy, Bjorklund was among more than two dozen Catholic military chaplains who stood accused of sexual abuse, AP reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 622-2410.
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