Livingston Daily [Brighton MI]
October 18, 2022
By Sophia Lada Livingston Daily
The Diocese of Lansing in a statement said that a priest who the Michigan Attorney General declined to prosecute for having sex with a minor was found to have done so during a separate church investigation.
The priest, Shaun Lowery, served at Brighton’s St. Mary Magdalen parish from 2019 to 2021.
In the diocese statement, spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing David Kerr said: “Father Lowery engaged in immoral sexual acts, grievously violated his vow of celibacy, and gave scandal to the young persons involved in this case, as well as to the wider church. We offer prayer and penance for all who have been adversely affected by Father Lowery, especially the young person with whom he engaged in immoral sexual acts.”
According to the Oct. 13 statement, he has requested to be laicized, or removed from the priesthood. Lowery resigned as pastor of St. Mary Magdalen parish in April 2022.
The case began in March 2021 when a student reported to the Diocese of Lansing that their friend, a 16-year-old boy, had engaged in sexual activity with Lowery. According to the student, the encounter had been organized using the app Grindr.
The Diocese of Lansing forwarded the information to the Office of the Michigan Attorney General, which started an investigation.
At the time, Lowery, who was ordained in 2009, was placed on administrative leave and was not allowed to serve as a priest.
In an interview, Lowery confirmed to law enforcement that the sexual encounter took place, but claimed to be unaware the person was 16 because the app they met through requests age verification that users are older than 18.
In May 2021, the Attorney General’s Office said it would not pursue prosecution because there was not a crime. Michigan’s statutory rape law requires the victim to be under 16 years old. There were also no allegations that the sexual contact was non-consensual.
The Diocese of Lansing began its investigation under church law, which defines a minor as someone younger than 18.
The case was referred to the diocesan Review Board for the Sexual Abuse of Minors, which sent its findings to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
“The Review Board found that, while Fr. Lowery denied knowing that the sexual encounter was with a minor, the encounter was, indeed, with a minor,” the statement said.
The CDF responded that Lowery could not be held liable for his actions because “in their judgment, the (violation of the law) of sexual abuse of a minor was not imputable against Fr. Lowery because he had committed the (violation) before the new Norms Regarding Delicts Reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been promulgated and came into force on Dec. 8, 2021.”
“These new norms,” the Dioece statement say, “state that ‘ignorance or error on the part of the cleric regarding the age of the minor does not constitute an extenuating or exonerating circumstance.'”
The Diocese of Lansing requested clarification on the CDF ruling and is awaiting a response.
Lowery previously served as an associate priest at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ann Arbor before replacing Rev. David Howell as pastor for St. Mary Magdalen in 2019.
Lowery is the fourth Livingston County priest to be the subject of “credible” sexual misconduct allegations.
The Diocese previously announced in 2019 that three other priests were credibly accused of sexual misconduct.
Timothy Crowley, who was ordained in 1976, served at St. Patrick in Brighton, among six other posts. He was removed from ministry in July 2002 and laicized in 2015.
James Novak, who was ordained in 1957, served at St. Agnes in Fowlerville, among nine other posts. He was removed from ministry in November 2002. His laicization is pending.
Terrence Healy, who was ordained in 1968, served at St. John the Baptist in Howell, among six other posts. He was removed from ministry in September 1987, was laicized in June 1992 and died in January 2019.
Sophia Lada is a reporter for the Livingston Daily. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-377-1065. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_lada.