The Catholic Diocese of Lansing determined allegations against the late Bishop James Sullivan, accused of abusing two boys, to be credible.

Sexual abuse allegations against late Lansing priest deemed credible

Lansing State Journal [Lansing MI]

July 2, 2021

By Mark Johnson

[Photo above: The Catholic Diocese of Lansing determined allegations against the late Bishop James Sullivan, accused of abusing two boys, to be credible.]

LANSING —The Catholic Diocese of Lansing determined allegations against the late Bishop James Sullivan, who is accused of sexually abusing two boys, to be credible.

Sullivan, who died in 2006, was the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing from 1972 to 1985 before leaving to become bishop in Fargo, North Dakota from 1985 to 2002, according to a Diocese of Lansing press release issued Friday. 

The Diocese of Lansing launched an investigation in July 2020 after the Michigan Attorney General provided it with abuse allegations against Sullivan. A second allegation emerged during a probe led by a private investigator.

In 1964, Sullivan inappropriately touched a boy, who was 12 years old at the time, according to the press release, and subjected the boy to “uninvited sexualized conversations.” The abuse continued for two years. 

Sullivan inappropriately touched another boy, who was 11 to 12 years old at the time, in 1966. 

All incidents occurred at the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Lansing where Sullivan had been residing.

“Following investigation and review, the Diocese of Lansing has found two allegations against the late Bishop James Sullivan to be credible,” said David Kerr, director of communications for the Diocese of Lansing, in the press release. 

“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’.”

The Catholic Diocese of Lansing Review Board, which consists of seven people with backgrounds in law enforcement, education and psychology and who advise the Bishop of Lansing on sexual abuse allegations against minors, reviewed the results of the investigation.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

The board concluded that both allegations against Sullivan “appeared to be true,” according to William Bloomfield, general counsel of the Diocese of Lansing.

“We are grateful to Bishop Sullivan’s victims for coming forward and sharing their stories,” he said in the press release. “They have displayed great courage and dignity throughout the entire process — they have our gratitude, admiration and prayers.”

Sullivan, from Kalamazoo, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lansing in 1955. He held parish assignments in Flint, Lansing and St. Joseph before becoming a private secretary to Bishop Joseph Albers and Bishop Alexander Zaleski, according to the press release.

Sullivan became auxiliary bishop in Lansing in 1972, primarily assisting Zaleski and his successor, Bishop Kenneth Povish. Sullivan worked in Lansing until he left for Fargo in 1985.

“We appreciate the Diocese of Lansing is acknowledging abuse perpetrated by the late Bishop as well as its ongoing cooperation in our clergy abuse investigation,” said Lynsey Mukomel, spokesperson for Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Officials with the Diocese of Lansing and the Diocese of Fargo are unaware of any further allegations of sexual abuse during Sullivan’s time in Fargo. Both dioceses will add Sullivan’s name to their respective lists of clergy with credible claims of sexual misconduct involving a minor.

The Diocese of Lansing in 2019 published the names of 17 priests, or about 2.8% of the clergy who have served in the diocese, who have faced credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors since 1937, when the diocese was established. More than 90% of those allegations date to a three-decade period starting in the 1960s. 

All area priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse are either dead or no longer active in the ministry, according to the press release. The victims include 66 boys, four girls and three whose gender was unreported.