Priest Resigns in Memphis
Accusations Early in Career Lead to Move
By Angela Mullins
Times Herald [Port Huron MI]
May 6, 2002
Memphis - Amid accusations of sexual misconduct early in his career, a 53-year-old priest has resigned after less than a year at All Saints Catholic Church.
The Rev. Anthony J. "Tony" Conti is on a leave of absence from the ministry, officials said.
Parishioners received the news about Conti after each of the Main Street church's three Sunday Masses, which were led by the Rev. Leo Broderick.
Broderick, a Clay Township resident and senior priest with the Archdiocese of Detroit, has been appointed temporary administrator of All Saints. Broderick previously served St. Augustine Church in Richmond and St. Nicholas Church in Mussey Township. A nun from the archdiocese also was at the Masses on Sunday, offering comfort to many parishioners, church members said.
"These actions follow a credible allegation of sexual misconduct arising from the early years of Fr. Conti's service as a priest," said a written statement from the archdiocese.
More information was expected to be released today during an 11 a.m. news conference in Detroit, archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said Sunday.
Also Sunday, members of St. Alfred Catholic Church in Taylor were told the Rev. Dennis Laesch, 47, has taken a temporary leave of absence.
The archdiocese's statement said, "? there is sufficient ambiguity regarding a previous allegation of sexual misconduct" that was disclosed to prosecutors Friday about Laesch.
The archdiocese Friday gave prosecutors internal records about 51 priests, two deacons and a religious brother that have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past 15 years. It was not clear how many of the allegations are credible.
The record transfer followed a deal April 25 between the church and prosecutors from the six counties served by the archdiocese, which has about 1.4 million members in Lapeer, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne counties.
In St. Clair County, prosecutors received two reports involving Catholic clergy but said nothing in the reports required a criminal investigation.
With Conti and Laesch, at least 11 Catholic priests in Michigan have been removed or left their parishes since Jan. 1 amid abuse allegations. At least six cases involved a minor.
Conti's resignation came as a shock to many of the 250 families who attend All Saints.
Norm Kollinger, a member of the church's parish council, said the resignation was discussed at a special council meeting Wednesday evening but no details were given.
"There was a woman from the archdiocese there, and she said that allegations had been made and for the sake of not getting involved in any more media, he (Conti) had been asked to resign," Kollinger said.
"They didn't say what kind of allegations."
Although Kollinger said news of the resignation "was a total surprise," a few church members said speculation had been forming all week.
Conti came to the Memphis church in July after the retirement of the Rev. Denny Nowinski, who had served the church for about 10 years.
Before coming to All Saints, Conti served as associate pastor at the Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn from 1989 to 2000. He previously had positions at churches in Detroit and Warren.
Conti legally changed his last name from Helinski to Conti in 1989, according to the archdiocese.
Church members said they expect the parish to stand behind Conti and assist him in any way they can.
"(The archdiocese has) been as forthright with us as they could be," Kollinger said. "I think we will all stay strong and united."
A CLOSER LOOK
THE REV. ANTHONY J. CONTI, 53
ORDAINED: May 1976.
EDUCATION: Master of divinity degree, St. John Provincial Seminary, Plymouth.
1976: Associate pastor, Our Lady Queen of Haven Church, Detroit.
1977: Associate pastor, St. Edmund Church, Warren.
1978: Associate pastor, St. Andrew Church, Detroit.
1983: Pastor, St. Ignatius Church, Detroit.
1989: Legally changed last name from Helinski to Conti.
1989: Associate pastor, St. Anne Church, Warren.
2000: Associate pastor, Sacred Heart Church, Dearborn.
JULY 2001 TO MAY 2002: Pastor, All Saints Church, Memphis.
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