|Former Laingsburg Priest Accused of Abuse
By Gary Ridley
August 24 2010
LAINGSBURG — A former area priest, who died more than 40 years ago, now is believed to have sexually abused more than a half-dozen children while serving at an area parish, according to church leaders.
Catholic Diocese of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea said the former pastor of St. Isidore Parish in Laingsburg and St. Mary Parish in Morrice, Rev. John Martin, has been accused of committing sexual abuse against minors during his tenure in Laingsburg. Charges, Boyea says, he believes to be true.
Martin served at St. Isidore from 1941 to 1966 before stepping down after a fire destroyed the church. He died in 1968 after suffering a stroke.
According to church leaders, Boyea was informed of the allegations on June 10, nearly 42 years after Martin’s death.
After receiving the accusation, Boyea said he placed notices inside at St. Isidore and St. Mary seeking any other potential victims and asking them to come forward.
Since the original allegation was received, Catholic Diocese of Lansing Chancellor Rev. Msgr. Steven J. Raica said six other men who were part of the Laingsburg parish as boys have reported incidences of abuse involving Martin to the church.
“They’re independent and they’re consistent,” Boyea said. “We could give credibility to what they said.”
Boyea said he would not release the names of the victims or specifics of the allegations in an effort to protect the victims.
“Our primary concern is for the victims,” Boyea said. “Usually, in these cases the victims do not want to be known.”
The church is also hoping any other potential victims will come forward and report abuse to the church.
“There’s no deadline to bring this forward,” Raica said.
The information received by the church has been forwarded to Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry for review. However, Boyea said it is unlikely the prosecutor will do anything since Martin is deceased.
Colbry could not be reached for comment.
Although Boyea declined to provide further information on the allegations, he did refer to them as “gravely sinful actions.”
“We’re not talking about some minor infraction,” Boyea said.
Neither Boyea or Raica knew why the first victim came forward after nearly a half-century from the date the incident allegedly took place, but both said the church would offer any help it could to any victims.
“I can only imagine holding it in for 42-plus years,” Boyea said.
The diocese will offer counseling to any of the victims who seek it. Diocese Director of Communications Michael Diebold said the diocese also offers a retreat at its center in DeWitt for victims of clergy abuse.
Martin is not the first member of the diocese to have been accused of sexual abuse against minors. Five Diocese of Lansing priests have been permanently removed from the ministry, as have three priests that served in the Diocese of Lansing but were from outside of the diocese.
Church leaders noted that all claims of sexual abuse within the diocese occurred more than a decade ago.
“We hope this type of activity doesn’t define who we are,” Boyea said. “Many, many priests are just good men.”
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