Michigan AG Schuette Opens Catholic Priest Sex Abuse Investigation
By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press
September 21, 2018
The Michigan Attorney General's Office announced Friday it has launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The office posted on its website that it now has an open investigation into whether clergy in the Catholic Church in Michigan committed acts of abuse against children. It will examine possible abuse in all of the seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan, which has about 2 million Catholics.
"The Michigan Department of Attorney General has determined that a full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required," it reads on the Attorney General's website. "This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what, and when."
The investigation was first reported by WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to several cases of abuse.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Schuette confirmed to the Free Press the investigation was launched in August and announced Friday.
|The office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Sept. 21, 2018, it has launched an investigation into the Catholic Church in Michigan for possible abuse of children. (Photo: Nate Manley, AP)|
The Attorney General's Office said on its website: "Do you have information about the Catholic Church that you think would help us? If so, please submit the information below in the Comments box."
"You may also call the investigation hotline at 844-324-3374 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) or send information by email."
In its response to WOOD TV's FOIA request, the Michigan Attorney General's Office wrote in a letter, "please be informed that the Department of Attorney General opened an investigation in August 2018 into the alleged sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests from 1950 to the present for all seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan. In addition, the investigation includes religious order priests who have worked in Michigan. The investigation will also include any allegations related to the cover up of sexual abuse or assault."
The Attorney General added: "The Department has established two reporting mechanisms for those who may be victims or have information regarding alleged sexual misconduct. First, a website has been established to allow for confidential reporting of information: Michigan.gov/CI. Second, the Department’s investigation hotline is prepared to receive information at 844-324-3374 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)."
In a statement Friday, the Archdiocese of Detroit, which overseas 1.3 million Catholics in southeastern Michigan, welcomed the probe. It said: "The Archdiocese of Detroit welcomes the Attorney General's investigation and is prepared to fully cooperate. We have worked closely with authorities from all six counties within our archdiocese since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The Attorney General investigation is the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing."
The Archdiocese of Detroit added: "We have full confidence in our safe environment policies put in place and carefully followed for more than 15 years. We remain committed to protecting everyone — especially children and vulnerable adults — and therefore look forward to working closely with officials to determine if there is more we can do to accomplish this goal."
The move comes after a report last month by the Pennsylvania Attorney General detailed extensive abuse of children by Catholic priests in that state. Other states have launched similar investigations.
The Diocese of Lansing also welcomed the state investigation, saying in a statement: "We are confident in our processes. We have and will continue to reach out to law enforcement with these matters."
Two weeks ago, Lansing "Bishop Earl Boyea announced that he is planning to invite an external agency of lay professionals to audit Diocese of Lansing files and verify that the diocese handled allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics appropriately," said the statement.
"We know of no one active in ministry in our diocese who has abused a child," said the Lansing Diocese. "The last known event of abuse of a minor occurred prior to 2002. It is important that anyone committing these crimes is brought to justice."
The Michigan Attorney General also has open investigations into the Flint water crisis and Michigan State University over abuse by Larry Nassar and others.
David Clohessy, the former director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said: "We commend Michigan's Attorney General for announcing this long-overdue investigation. ... We hope many in Michigan will overcome their fears and speak up so kids will be safer and so the truth will be exposed."
Clohessy said that "victims are understandably reluctant to trust authority figures. So the Attorney General must work hard to win the confidence of still suffering survivors."
Contact Niraj Warikoo: email@example.com or 313-223-4792.