Michigan priest pleads guilty to sexually abusing 5-year-old boy in 1987

Catholic News Agency - EWTN [Denver CO]

April 27, 2023

By Joe Bukuras

A Michigan Catholic priest who was removed from active ministry in 2002 after a sexual abuse complaint was brought against him pleaded guilty in state court April 25 to charges of sexually abusing a 5-year-old boy in 1987.

Since the first complaint was brought to the Diocese of Lansing against Father Vincent Delorenzo in 2002, seven more accusations have been brought against him to the diocese, where he served as a priest from 1965 to 2002, the Diocese of Lansing said in an April 25 press release.

The criminal charge alleged that Delorenzo sexually assaulted the boy after officiating a funeral service for the boy’s deceased family member. The accusation stemmed from a complaint brought to the diocese in 2018, which was forwarded to law enforcement.

Originally charged with three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct, Delorenzo settled with the state and pleaded guilty to one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. 

Delorenzo, 84, is expected to serve five years of probation. The first year of his probation will be served in Genesee County Jail. His sentencing is set for June 13 at 8:30 a.m.

The other charges that were dismissed by the state in exchange for Delorenzo’s guilty plea alleged that from 1995-2000 the priest sexually assaulted a male child while the boy was a student at Holy Redeemer School in Burton, Michigan. According to The Burton View, the school closed in 2009.

According to an affidavit accompanying the original complaint against Delorenzo, from June 1988 to January 2002 he served as the pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Burton, which owned the school. The Sisters of the Holy Cross of Notre Dame staffed the school.

The priest was ordained in 1965, the affidavit said. 

After the first complaint, Delorenzo was removed from active ministry and never returned, the release said. All allegations against the priest were referred to law enforcement, according to the diocese’s press release.

Now that legal proceedings are nearing conclusion, the diocese is pursuing laicization of the priest. 

In its statement, the Diocese of Lansing praised the victims that came forward with accusations against Delorenzo.

“It was the bravery of those victims who came forward with testimony against DeLorenzo that helped to secure today’s conviction — for that, those individuals have our gratitude, our support, and, of course, our prayers that they find both healing and peace,” David Kerr, the spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing, said in the release.

Kerr called Delorenzo’s abuse “gravely immoral,” adding that “he besmirched the good name of the Catholic priesthood, he betrayed the trust put in him by the Catholic community of the Diocese of Lansing, and, most disturbingly, he damaged the lives of his young victims.”

For the crime of criminal sexual misconduct in Michigan, a charge cannot be brought against someone for an incident that occurred more than 10 years ago. 

Although the allegations against Delorenzo stemmed from incidents that occurred more than 10 years ago, the statute of limitations had not expired because of the way the law was written, according to the Michigan attorney general’s office.

The statute of limitations is “tolled” if a defendant leaves the state within the 10-year period, according to the attorney general’s office. The statute of limitations resumes when and if the defendant returns to the state. 

Delorenzo moved to Florida in 2008, according to the affidavit. He was arrested in Marion County, Florida, in 2019, the attorney general’s office said.