Priest Removed from Lansing Due to Sexual Assault Claim Worked in Kalamazoo, Portage
By Kara Berg and Ken Palmer
Lansing State Journal
October 11, 2018
A senior priest in the Diocese of Lansing has had his priestly permissions revoked due to a "credible allegation" of sexual assault by an adult male from decades ago, according to the Diocese of Lansing.
The Diocese identified the priest as the Rev. Robert Gerl. A spokesman said Gerl was on "senior priest status" and has not had an assignment for years.
As of 2014, the 10-county diocese of Lansing had about 196,000 parishioners.
With his permissions revoked, Gerl is no longer able to publicly minister as a priest.
The Diocese of Lansing said last month that it would release the names of priests and other religious leaders who sexually abused children.
The diocese also said it plans to invite an external agency to review how sexual abuse allegations were handled. The report from the external agency will be made public on the Diocese's website, Bishop Earl Boyea said.
The actions regarding Gerl come while the state Attorney General's Office is investigating sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Michigan dating back to 1950.
The AG's investigation began in August and focuses on "alleged sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests from 1950 to the present for all seven Catholic dioceses in Michigan," according to an AG's Office response to a public records request from a media outlet.
"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."
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to comment on "specifics of our open investigation into the Catholic Church."
Michael Diebold, a spokesman for the diocese, declined to discuss the allegations involving Gerl, saying a criminal investigation is underway. Diebold said he could not provide Gerl's past assignments because that information is contained in files taken by the Michigan State Police.
The actions involving Gerl come about a month after the Rev. Mark Inglot, pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and St. John Student Center, was placed on leave after a sexual harassment complaint was filed against him. An adult co-worker made the harassment claim against Inglot on Sept. 5, the Catholic Diocese of Lansing said in a statement on its website.
Boyea began an internal investigation and received a report on Sept. 10 indicating the claim is credible, the statement said.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo issued the following statement Thursday:
“On October 5, 2018, the Diocese of Lansing announced that they had officially removed priestly faculties for Rev. Robert Gerl, an incardinated priest for the Diocese of Lansing, due to a credible allegation of sexual assault of an adult male which occurred decades ago. Fr. Gerl served in pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Kalamazoo at Nazareth College (1986-1991), St. Thomas More Parish, Kalamazoo (1997-2000) and St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Portage, (2000-2009). Additionally he regularly celebrated Masses at a number of other parishes during this time on a temporary weekend basis. Fr. Gerl does not have faculties for pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
“If you, or anyone you know, has been harmed by Fr. Gerl or anyone representing the Church, contact appropriate law enforcement. You may also contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Deacon Pat Hall, 877-802-0115.”
The diocese asks that anyone with information about abuse or harm done by anyone representing the church contact law enforcement or Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Cheryl Williams-Hecksel at 888-308-6252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AG's office said anyone with information can call a toll-free hotline during regular business hours at ( 844) 324-3374 or go to michigan.gov/CI. The Diocese asks anyone who has information on abuse or harm done by anyone representing the church to contact law enforcement or Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Cheryl Williams-Hecksel at 888-308-6252 or email@example.com.
Contact Ken Palmer at (517) 377-1032 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj. Contact Kara Berg at 517-377-1113 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @karaberg95.