Lansing Diocese Rocked by 2nd Dead Priest Accused of Molesting

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
August 25 2010

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing was rocked today by revelations about another priest, long-dead, now accused of sexually molesting a boy decades ago.

Lansing lawyer David Mittleman announced today that he has negotiated a $225,000 settlement from the Diocese of Lansing on behalf of a man who says he was molested by the late Rev. John Slowey at an orphanage in the mid-1950s.

Lansing diocese spokesman Michael Diebold confirmed the cash settlement in the Slowey case.

He said Slowey served an assignment at St. Vincent Home for Children in the mid-1950s. But Diebold said the diocese has received no other complaints about Slowey.

Diebold said the diocese notified the county prosecutor about the complaint against Slowey when they learned about it, and started a diocesan inquiry. Diebold said the diocese reached a settlement with Mittleman’s client, but cautioned they didn’t have any further substantiation about the claim.

“Even though an allegation has been brought by someone, even though we’re unable to substantiate that allegation, it doesn’t mean we won’t help people who are hurting,” said Diebold. “So there was a compromise reached with Mittleman’s client to cover his client’s healing expenses.”

On Tuesday, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea publicly identified a different priest, the Rev. John Martin, who died in 1968, as having abused at least six boys when Martin served as pastor of St. Isidore Catholic Church in Laingsburg.

In the newest case, lawyer Mittleman says his client was 5-6 years old when he was molested in the mid-1950s by Slowey at what was then known as St. Vincent’s orphanage in Lansing. Mittleman said his client, who is also a lawyer, repressed the memory until about 18 months ago when he had a visible, emotional breakdown.

Since then, his client, who does not want to be identified and is in his late 50s, has not been able to work.

Mittleman said his client told his story to Lansing diocese officials.

“I think they believed in how candid my client was and based on his reputation, decided to do the right thing,” said Mittleman.

Michigan law makes it hard to victims of such long-ago abuse to bring successful civil court actions for compensation.

Currently, Michigan law contains a statute of limitation on filing civil lawsuits for past abuse. In most cases, the law requires a victim to bring a suit within two years of the abuse. If the abuse happened when the person was a youngster, the victim has until one year past an 18th birthday to sue. In Michigan, several lawsuits have been shot down by the state courts, which have ruled the suits were filed too late.

Bills in the legislature to extend the statute of limitations, to make it easier for victims to sue, have stalled – partly because of lobbying against some of the changes by the Michigan Catholic Conference and other organizations.

Mittleman said he hopes the Slowey case will give some impetus to the legislation to extend the statutes.

“I think to escape responsibility because some time has passed, with such an egregious act, is ridiculous,” said Mittleman.

Teresa Kettelkamp, who is the executive director for the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said today that she believed more bishops were acknowledging that it’s necessary to publicly identify the names of deceased priests for whom credible accusations of long-ago abuse have surfaced. She said many bishops have been reluctant to release those names because the accused aren’t alive to defend themselves.

She lauded Boyea for releasing Rev. John Martin’s name, after Boyea learned this summer that victims, now in their 60s and 70s, had come forward to reveal they were molested by Martin as youngsters in the 1950s and 1960s.

“The bishops are finally coming around,” said Kettelkamp. “I think they’re realizing how powerful it is to release the names of the credibly accused, even if they are deceased, to encourage other victims. It’s not uncommon for victims to think ‘it just happened to me.”

“To have something come out in public might be just the ounce of courage victims needs to come forward for a chance for healing,” Kettelkamp said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.