|Defrocked Priest Accused of Sex Abuse Fired from St. Clair Shores Parish
By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
January 28, 2011
The Archdiocese of Detroit said Thursday that it will investigate how a former priest, removed from the priesthood in Toledo because of allegations that he had sexually molested boys, has been able to work as an organist at a Macomb County Catholic parish.
The archdiocese's action came after the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) revealed that Herbert Richey, who was laicized from the priesthood in 1997 because of credible allegations that he had sexually abused several boys in the Toledo area, was the organist at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in St. Clair Shores.
Richey's position as a parish employee raises questions about the rigor of background checks instituted in the wake of the priest abuse scandal to prevent child predators from coming into settings where they could work with minors.
A parishioner confirmed that Richey played the organ at the church last Sunday.
But archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said Thursday that Richey "will no longer serve as the organist or in any other capacity at the parish."
The archdiocese's response came in a statement released after SNAP members called a news conference Thursday afternoon in front of the archdiocese's downtown headquarters. Moreover, McGrath said, Richey was banned from working in any archdiocese parish or school in 2002, when it was learned he had been in a similar job at St. Joseph parish in Trenton.
McGrath, in a statement, said Richey "was immediately removed and ordered by the Detroit archdiocese not to work in any of its parishes or schools" in 2002, a time when the Catholic Church was responding to a vociferous outcry about its secretive handling of priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
Since then, Detroit and Catholic dioceses nationwide have instituted background checks and screening procedures to prevent this kind of occurrence.
Richey did not return phone calls seeking comment. The pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland, the Rev. Ronald DeHondt, could not be reached for comment, either.
Matt Jatczak, SNAP's Detroit leader, dropped off a letter Thursday addressed to Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron, demanding to know how Richey ended up working in Catholic churches when "a simple Google search would have revealed the multiple credible and serious allegations against Richey that led to his being permanently defrocked by the Vatican."
The Toledo Blade reported in 2005 that Richey was removed from ministry in 1992 and defrocked in 1997 after at least four boys in three Ohio parishes accused him of sexual abuse.
Richey was never charged with a crime, despite an investigation by the Erie County Sheriff's Office, the newspaper reported. The Catholic Diocese of Toledo's Web site lists Richey as having been removed from ministry because of abuse allegations.
Jatczak said SNAP was alerted to Richey's Detroit-area work by a Catholic parishioner who knew of his past.
"The Archdiocesan Review Board will commence an investigation of this matter with the intention of assuring this unacceptable situation does not happen again," McGrath said in a statement.
Bob Saelens, the secretary of St. Margaret's parish council, said he knew nothing of Richey's controversial background, and that Richey had worked as an organist at the parish for several years.
"This floors me. It really does," Saelens said. "I've appreciated his talents as an organist and a singing voice. It's a total, total surprise."
Contact Patricia Montemurri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4538
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