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  Church Removes 2 Priests
Area Parishes Learn of Misconduct Allegations

By Alexa Capeloto
Detroit Free Press
July 1, 2002

On a day when Catholics usually gather to celebrate their faith, thousands instead wrestled with grim news Sunday about local pastors removed from active ministry because of sexual misconduct allegations.

Church officials visited parishes in Livonia, Taylor, Trenton, Beverly Hills and North Branch during the weekend either to talk with parishioners who recently lost their pastors or to announce new removals to others.

By the end of the weekend, two names were added to the list of 12 local priests disciplined by the church since January for alleged sexual misconduct: Rev. Edmund Borycz of St. Michael in Livonia and the recently retired Rev. Jude Ellinghausen of SS. Peter and Paul in North Branch and St. Patrick Mission in Clifford.

The Detroit Archdiocese restricted both priests from active ministry because of a combination of evidence gathered by the church and by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutor Mike Duggan, who received 51 files on priests from the archdiocese in May, is a lifelong member of St. Michael and graduated from its school in 1972.

"I started this with the approach that the prosecutor should protect all kids at all churches as if it were my kids and my church," Duggan said Sunday. "I didn't really expect it to be my church, but you never know where these investigations are going to lead."

Duggan said neither priest will be charged because the statute of limitations expired in each case.

In addition to announcing restrictions against Borycz and Ellinghausen, church officials met Sunday with parishioners of other recently disciplined priests: Msgr. Walter Hurley, the archdiocese's representative regarding clergy sexual misconduct, spoke with parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, where the newly retired Rev. Robert Wyzgoski was removed last week because of new allegations of misconduct during the 1960s.

A priest with the Crosier Fathers and Brothers religious order visited St. Joseph in Trenton to discuss the recent removal of Rev. James Vedro OSC for alleged past misconduct with adults.

A member of St. Alfred in Taylor read a statement by the Crosier order announcing that Rev. Neil Emon OSC, who had been assistant pastor there from 1989 to 2000, has been disciplined in Arizona upon further review of misconduct during the 1970s.

Detroit Archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath called Sunday "a sad day" for victims, priests and parishioners affected by the removals. Catholics grappling with their pastors' sudden removal agreed with him.

"Today in church, it was like a funeral. Everybody was crying," said Ron Collard, a member of St. Joseph, where Vedro became pastor in 1996. "There is no closure in this. He's just gone."

Before visiting Wyzgoski's parish, Hurley spent Sunday morning at Borycz's parish in Livonia, celebrating mass and announcing Borycz's leave of absence pending an investigation into alleged abuse dating back to the 1970s.

Borycz, 61, did not attend weekend services and was not available for comment Sunday, but a deacon read a letter written by the pastor to his parishioners. It stated in part, "This allegation has no basis in truth, and I will stand behind that statement."

Borycz also wrote that he feels "angry, embarrassed and deeply hurt" and called the situation "a nightmare that will not end."

The former Army chaplain, who came to St. Michael one year ago and will officially remain pastor until the investigation is resolved, referred in his letter to an allegation of one instance of abuse in 1970. Duggan, however, said a second man has come forward, alleging an act of abuse in 1987.

Those who know Borycz said they were stunned by news of his removal.

"It's very shocking," said St. Michael Parish Council President Alan Kopack, who also said his pastor is innocent. "After the announcement was made, there were gasps throughout the church."

In the North Branch area, parishioners who just last week threw a retirement party for Ellinghausen, 69, were told of an investigation into allegations of abuse he is accused of committing decades ago. Several parish members declined to comment Sunday, and Ellinghausen could not be reached.

At last week's party, balloons, cake, gifts and several hugs greeted Ellinghausen, as well as a banner plastered with "Happy Retirement Father Jude!" and several photos of him with children. One after another, parishioners thanked him for his 16 years of ministry there.

When approached by the Free Press after the party, he denied any misconduct but admitted that he often took children out on excursions before priests were discouraged from such behavior in the late 1980s.

Perhaps, he said, when he went swimming with youths and changed in the same room with them afterward, some got the wrong impression.

"That was a different time then," he said regarding the swimming trips.

Duggan said his office continues to investigate two active priests and that the archdiocese is looking at a third. "We hope in the next couple weeks that all investigations of all active priests will be concluded," Duggan said. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

 
 

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