For many abused by priests, no window for justice


April 25, 2019

By Ken Kolker

A Barry County man said he was looking for justice when he recently called Target 8, along with the church and the Michigan Attorney General, to report a Roman Catholic priest had molested him when he was 12.

He thought his case was recent enough, just 20 years ago, that he could send his molester to jail or make him and the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids pay by suing them.

But while a growing number of states have passed laws allowing survivors in years-old cases to file civil lawsuits, there’s nothing he can legally do in Michigan.

“I was pretty crushed,” the man, now 31, said. “I was pretty upset because pretty much my whole life, all I wanted was a court of law to say that this guy was guilty, that what happened to me happened and that they’re going to hold this guy accountable for what he’s done. And after hearing that they couldn’t because they were tied by the law, it took a lot out of me.”

Michigan’s statute of limitations in child sexual abuse civil cases, considered by some experts as one of the most prohibitive in the country, is blocking him.

Some state lawmakers tried to change that last year, but say the Catholic Church and others lobbied against it and won.

Target 8 is not naming the Barry County man, who said he was 12 years old in 1999 when Father David LeBlanc molested him at Holy Family Church in Caledonia, six years after the Grand Rapids diocese learned LeBlanc had molested another boy in another church in 1971.

The Barry County man was in the sixth grade when he was sent to the priest for causing trouble in school.

“After the fact, a lot of it I thought was almost like punishment for what I had done,” he said of the sexual abuse.

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