AG report names 28 with Diocese of Gaylord as part of Michigan clergy abuse probe

MLive [Walker MI]

January 8, 2024

By Jordyn Hermani

Twenty-six priests and two deacons associated with the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord are at the center of a report issued by the Department of Attorney General on Monday regarding ongoing allegations of clergy abuse across Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses.

Of those 28 individuals named by the department, the diocese itself acknowledged 12 of them had already been on its list of individuals “credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.” Due to a mixture of statute of limitation issues, victims not wanting to move forward with criminal charges or reported actions not rising to the level of a criminal charge, no charges have been brought forward as part of the report.

When speaking to reporters Jan. 8, Attorney General Dana Nessel was quick to clarify the allegations summarized within the report did not mean the agency believed the allegations to be credible or otherwise be indicative of a crime. While the report names the clergy members, MLive is not since none have been charged with a crime.

But even without prosecution, she noted the report itself served to “make sure that victims are heard and also that they’re receiving the help that they need.”

The alleged abuses detailed within the report occurred in the Diocese of Gaylord from Jan. 1, 1950 until present, though the diocese itself was not established until 1971.

“Where we have the evidence to pursue a criminal prosecution, and it’s within the statute of limitations and we have a victim who wants to move forward – of course, we’re going to do that every time,” Nessel said. “A lot of times, we can’t check all of those boxes. But, it doesn’t mean that by putting this information together and putting it out publicly that we aren’t still able to serve the public and to help a lot of victims in a variety of different ways, even absent a criminal prosecution.”

The diocese additionally identified another two priests, one of which the department did not find any additional information on. The other was not made part of the Gaylord investigation due to his allegations involving his time as a priest in the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Regarding the remaining 14 individuals named in the attorney general’s report but not by the diocese, Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark said it was not that the diocese disputes those named by the department but that “their internal canonical process … is different”

“The information that we have, they have as well,” she said. “They just have different standards for reporting out. … But, yes, they are aware of the folks in the information that we have.”

The report on the Diocese of Gaylord comes as part of a series of departmental reports regarding the investigation into alleged clergy abuse in Michigan. The first report, an investigation into the Diocese of Marquette, was released in October 2022.

Nessel said she was hopeful the department would be releasing “our next report within the next six months,” adding: “I will make you the promise that absolutely all of these will be completed by the time I leave office.”

As part of the investigation, the department reviewed 21 boxes containing approximately 52,500 paper documents related to the Diocese of Gaylord. An additional 786,882 electronic documents, of the more than 3.5 million seized from the Archdiocese and the six Dioceses upon beginning the investigation, were also reviewed.

Of all 28 individuals referred to within the report, 16 are known or presumed to be dead. Of the 12 either living or presumed to be, three are in active ministry for the Diocese of Gaylord: one is a pastor, with the other two being retired ministry.

For those three in active ministry, the allegations leveled against them involve other adults. The Department of Attorney General, per the report, has not filed criminal charges against any of these priests.

Asked about the possibility of doing so in the future, Hagaman-Clark told reporters there was “not enough information to move forward, criminally,” based on currently gathered information.

“If we were to receive additional information, we would certainly take that in, we would process it, and we would look at it just like we do with any other criminal charges,” she said. “If there are folks who have additional information that they want to share with us, I would invite them to do so.”

Eleven cases to date have been brought forward as part of the department’s clergy abuse probe, nine of which have been resolved with convictions. Of those 11, none were related to priests ministering in the Diocese of Gaylord, per Monday’s report.

“Our promise to the victims was that every case of sexual abuse and assault would be thoroughly reviewed and that the results of the investigation would be transparent,” Nessel said in a statement, upon first releasing the report. “I especially want to thank the survivors who have shared their stories, sometimes for the first time after decades of silence.

“Their willingness to come forward has helped bring attention to an issue that has affected so many in our state and our country, especially children.”