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  Naval Chaplain Removed from Post by Archdiocese of Detroit for Charges of Sexual Abuse

By David Crumm
Detroit Free Press
July 4, 2003

The Rev. Brian Bjorklund, a Catholic chaplain in the U.S. Navy, was removed from active duty by Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida, because of a claim that he sexually abused a teenage boy years ago, church officials said today.

The accusation, which surfaced several months ago, involves alleged abuse in the early years of Bjorklund's 37-year career, Ned McGrath, Maida's spokesman, said. The priest has been placed on leave and is barred indefinitely from acting and dressing as a priest. "Not many people around here know him, because he has been working for the military since 1988," McGrath said. Over the past 15 years, Bjorklund has been stationed in South Carolina, Guam, Hawaii and most recently in Lemoore, Calif.

Bjorklund is the 19th priest to be removed from his job by the Archdiocese of Detroit since March 2002.

McGrath declined to say where the abuse may have taken place. But he did provide a list of Bjorklund's past appointments. The priest, now 63, was ordained in 1966 and served parishes, including St. Alfred in Taylor, St. Linus in Dearborn Heights, St. Andrew in Rochester and St. Timothy in Trenton. In the mid-1970s, he also served as a campus minister at Oakland University.

Bjorklund could not be reached to comment, but the priest's record was defended by Joe Maher, a Redford Township businessman who cofounded a support group for accused priests.

"We've been aware for a couple of months that an accusation has been made and we've been helping Father Brian," Maher said. "The allegations against him are false and Father Brian is completely innocent. When we prove that, we expect him to be immediately reinstated."

Maher's group plans to assist Bjorklund mainly by providing lawyers to press his case in church courts. An expert in canon law, the legal code that guides administrative decisions in the Catholic Church, may be able to convince Maida to return Bjorklund to his post with the Navy, Maher said.

At archdiocesan offices, McGrath said the man accusing Bjorklund contacted church officials earlier this year. "And we turned it over to civil authorities right away."

Due to Michigan's statute of limitation, prosecutors could not pursue the matter, McGrath said, so Maida's archdiocesan review board examined the case further and recommended Bjorklund's removal.

The Catholic Church's national policy now says that a priest must be removed from ministry if he ever sexually misbehaved with a minor, even if the incident occurred decades ago.

Contact DAVID CRUMM at 313-223-4526 or crumm@freepress.com.

 
 

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