Lansing Diocese: Accusations that ex-bishop sexually abused two boys are ‘credible’

WSYM-TV - Fox 47 [Lansing MI]

July 2, 2021

By Matthew Miller

LANSING, Mich. — The Diocese of Lansing has determined that two allegations of sexual abuse against former Bishop James Sullivan are credible.

Both victims were boys who were “subject to sexual grooming and inappropriate contact by Sullivan” in the mid-1960s when Sullivan was living at the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Lansing, according to a statement released by the diocese on Friday.

Sullivan, who died in 2006, was auxiliary bishop of the diocese from 1972 to 1985 before becoming Bishop of Fargo in North Dakota from 1985 to 2002.

“Bishop Sullivan’s actions were gravely immoral, deeply scandalous and betrayed both the trust of the Catholic community within the Diocese of Lansing and, more significantly, the faith placed in him by the victims and their families to whom we say: ‘This should not have happened to you and we are profoundly sorry that it ever did,’” said David Kerr, spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing.

The Diocese launched and investigation in July 2020 after receiving an allegation of abuse against Sullivan from the Michigan Department of Attorney General. A second allegation against Sullivan emerged during the course of that investigation..

The first victim was about 12 years old in 1964 when then Sullivan “subjected him to inappropriate touching and uninvited sexualized conversations,” the diocese said, a pattern of behavior that continued over the next two years.

The second victim was 11 to 12 years old in 1966 when Sullivan “inappropriately touched him.” All incidents occurred at the where Bishop Sullivan resided at the time.

“We are grateful to Bishop Sullivan’s victims for coming forward and sharing their stories,” said William Bloomfield, general counsel of the diocese, in a statement. They have displayed great courage and dignity throughout the entire process. they have our gratitude, admiration and prayers.”

A Lansing man named Bill Kinney also said Sullivan sexually abused him in 1966 and also accused one of his teachers at a Catholic high school in Lansing of abuse. In the mid-1990s, the diocese agreed to pay $10,000 toward psychiatric treatment for Kinney, according to a 2002 report from the Lansing State Journal.

Okemos psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg wrote in a 1995 evaluation that Kinney “was severely abused and damaged by agents of the Catholic Church,” according to the Journal’s report.

Between 1950 and 2002, the diocese paid $473,533 to sexual abuse victims and their families, according to a 2004 statement from then-Bishop Carl F. Mengeling.