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  Priests Resign Posts after Admitting to Allegations

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 28, 2002

A priest in this Gratiot County community has resigned, one week after admitting to members of two parishes that he engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" more than 16 years ago.

The Rev. John E. Hammer made the announcement Saturday during a Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church of Alma, The Saginaw News reported. He also is pastor of Mount St. Joseph Catholic Church in St. Louis, Mich.

And on Sunday, the Diocese of Grand Rapids announced that a priest has resigned after accusations of inappropriate sexual contact with a teen-ager 23 years ago.

Hammer, 49, told parishioners a week before that he was sorry for his actions, had gone through intensive rehabilitation and wished to remain as pastor of the two churches.

"However, a priest can't serve effectively in a parish if he doesn't have the support of his people," he said at the time. "I don't know what the future will bring."

Those remarks came as a Columbus, Ohio, man who says he was abused by the Hammer in the early 1980s, called on Bishop Kenneth E. Untener to remove the priest.

Untener, whose parishes have held discussions about the nationwide abuse scandal, said at the time that he wanted to hear from parishioners before deciding whether Hammer should continue to serve.

The diocese was aware of the background of Hammer, who spent about five years in rehabilitation before he was hired.

Untener could not be reached for comment, and Hammer declined comment to the News late Saturday.

In the Grand Rapids diocese, the Rev. Daniel Aerts, pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Reed City and St. Anne Parish in Paris, Mich., resigned. He said he had been accused of an incident 23 years ago when he was an associate pastor in transition between Holy Spirit and St. Thomas parishes in Grand Rapids, the diocese said in a statement.

According to diocese officials, Aerts "has admitted to the allegation and expressed his deep regrets."

Diocese officials said in the statement that they had no prior knowledge of the abuse.

With the resignations of Hammer and Aerts, at least nine Catholic priests in Michigan have been removed or resigned since Jan. 1 amid abuse allegations. At least six of the cases involved a minor.

 
 

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