Ex-Priest Charged with Abuse
He Pleads Not Guilty in Molestation of Teen

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
September 12, 2002

Archdiocese of Detroit leaders allowed the Rev. Harry Benjamin to quietly leave the priesthood after he admitted in 1989 to having sexually abused a Canton boy, Wayne County prosecutors contend.On Wednesday, Benjamin was arraigned in 36th District Court in Detroit on charges that he molested the boy, 14, during overnight pizza and beer parties the priest threw for teenagers at an east-side Detroit rectory.

Benjamin, 60, who traveled from his Virginia home, entered a not-guilty plea and was released on a $10,000 personal bond pending an Oct. 31 preliminary examination. Benjamin and his lawyer, Michael Smith, had no comment after the arraignment, the third in the last week of men accused of molesting minors when they served as Catholic priests in the Detroit area.

Former priest Jason Sigler and the Rev. Edward Olszewski were arraigned earlier on criminal sexual conduct charges. The Rev. Robert Burkholder, a retired priest living in Hawaii and branded by Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan as one of Michigan's worst pedophiles, has yet to be arraigned.

Since the clergy sex abuse scandal erupted this year, Catholic dioceses and bishops across the country have enacted new policies to automatically notify civil authorities about allegations brought against priests.

That wasn't in practice when the archdiocese handled accusations against Benjamin, who had served at St. Paul in Grosse Pointe Farms and other parishes.

An investigator's report on the Benjamin case says the priest wrote a resignation letter on Nov. 9, 1989, admitting to sexually abusing the Canton boy. Benjamin also admitted the misconduct to the Rev. Walter Hurley, who handled such complaints for the archdiocese, during a face-to-face interview on Nov. 13, 1989, the report says.

In May, faced with mounting pressure, the Detroit Archdiocese turned over to prosecutors its files on accusations made against priests dating to 1988.


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