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  Church Defends Priest Probe
Archdiocese Says It Has Cause to Suspect Sex Abuse by Duggan

By John Bebow
Detroit News
March 29, 2002

Detroit -- The Archdiocese of Detroit confirmed Thursday that church officials found reasonable cause to suspect sexual abuse or exploitation involving the Rev. Dennis D. Duggan.

Duggan stepped down as priest at two Detroit parishes -- St. Suzanne and Our Lady Gate of Heaven -- on Tuesday just hours after the archdiocese received an allegation against him.

As Duggan's many friends and parishioners continued to offer testimonials and support, the archdiocese clarified this week's actions in a written response to The Detroit News' questions. Asked if the archdiocese found "reasonable cause to suspect sexual abuse or exploitation involving Father Duggan," the archdiocese said, "Yes and the circumstances continue to be investigated."

The statement also indicated: * Duggan offered to go on administrative leave while the allegation against him is investigated. He is currently "prohibited the exercise of any public ministry."

* The allegation against Duggan has not been turned over to police or prosecutors. The archdiocese is still determining "what the appropriate course of action would be."

Michigan law does not require sex abuse allegations involving clergy to be reported to legal authorities. In Michigan, the statute of limitations on criminal sexual conduct is 10 years.

* Tuesday's sex-related allegation is the only one the archdiocese has received against Duggan, a Michigan priest for 22 years.

Attempts to reach Duggan for comment since Tuesday were unsuccessful.

While many Catholics questioned the swiftness of Duggan's release from his parishes, the archdiocese said, "This process was not in any way accelerated due to increased public attention."

Shrine of the Little Flower parishioner Paul Bastian said the Duggan situation brings "a general sense of shock and confusion" to Catholics during Holy Week. Duggan served at the Royal Oak church in the 1980s.

"Personally, I would hope more details would come out. I don't like to be left in the dark," Bastian said. "But as much as I'd like to know what's going on, a measure of respect is due to Father Duggan."

The archdiocese declined to answer questions regarding its phone line established 10 years ago for reports of sexual abuse.

 
 

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