Catholic Church in Kalamazoo releases list of people no longer allowed to work with children

WZOO [Kalamazoo MI]

April 18, 2024

By Zac Harmon

The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo is working on sweeping changes to its policy to protect children and youth with the first action being made Thursday, in the middle of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Bishop Edward Lohse announced a list of people being removed from eligibility of working with children in the catholic churches in the diocese. The people named in the list were accused of a number of different violations, including breaking the child-protection policy, failing to report allegations of abuse of minors, failing to prevent abuse they knew was happening, providing pornography to children, possession of child pornography, physical abuse of children, and sexually assaulting a child.

According to the Diocese of Kalamazoo, the allegations are credible. The diocese used a method for establishing credibility that required at least one of the following conditions to be met:

  1. Legal proceedings
  2. Canon law proceedings
  3. Self-admission by the individual
  4. Evidence that meets the “clear and convincing” standard (defined as highly probable or reasonably certain)

Not all the people on the disqualification list face criminal charges. The diocese says some of the alleged actions happened with no affiliation to the church, and some people are already on publicly available lists like the sex offender registry. A number of people on the list are dead.
The list includes lay members and clergy, including three living priests, a former Cub Scout leader, playground supervisor, and choir director.

Bishop Lohse says while not all of the allegations include sexual assault, it is an intense focus of his to reduce the risk of more children being abused in catholic churches.

“In my responsibilities, I have met with numerous survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I have heard their stories and witnessed their pain. Childhood sexual abuse is a grave evil, and we are committed to doing all that we can to provide healing to survivors and a safe environment to young people entrusted to our care.”

The diocese says it welcomes any additional information on past or present cases of abuse. If accusations are made against a person that would disqualify them from serving with children, the diocese says it will add their name to the list.

The diocese is offering a free program for anyone dealing with childhood abuse. Since 2003 the diocese has partnered with The Trauma Recovery Program to provide a 10-week service at no cost.

Thursday’s announcement is the first anticipated change connected to the diocese’s ongoing review of child and youth policies. Bishop Lohse says a final set of changes is expected to be finished this summer.

“These major updates and continued review of our diocesan policies are with three primary goals in mind,” said Bishop Lohse. “First, to protect the children and youth entrusted to us by creating safe environment in our churches, schools and apostolates; second, to work to educate our faithful and those in our community to recognize predatory and other behavior that puts children at risk; and third, to work toward eradicating all forms of child abuse.”

The diocese posted the first edition of the list on its website.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault as a child, you can contact the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kalamazoo for support.

Meantime, the announcement comes in the midst of a statewide investigation by the Attorney General Dana Nessel looking into clergy abuse at the seven Catholic Diocese of Michigan.

FOX 17 received a statement from her office Thursday that reads:

Today’s announced policy review and reform intentions are positive developments and brings the Diocese of Kalamazoo in-line with other dioceses publicly naming their abusive clergy. We commend Bishop Lohse for his leadership and thank him for his efforts to keep his community safe from the living suspected offenders. It is our hope that abuse victims of both the living and deceased suspected offenders feel their trauma is seen and acknowledged by today’s release and that it may bring them some measure of peace and healing to see their abuser publicly named for what they knew them to be.

Among those named today by the Diocese of Kalamazoo, our department issued charges against Jacob Vellian and secured convictions against Brian Stanley.”