State Developments Related to Sex Abuse Scandal

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 27, 2002

A summary of developments since January in the state's Roman Catholic dioceses and archdiocese, related to the nationwide sexual abuse scandals in the church:

Archdiocese of Detroit

Three priests have left their posts this year amid allegations of sexual misconduct, including at least one involving a minor. A fourth priest was charged in April with raping a 48-year-old woman in October who attended the Detroit parish where he worked until being removed in November. As part of the investigation into the rape allegation against the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame, the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan subpoenaed Kevin Britt, a bishop who handles sex-abuse investigations for the archdiocese. Duggan also spearheaded a call by prosecutors for church officials to turn over records of abuse investigations. On Thursday, the diocese signed an agreement with prosecutors to provide them with reports of alleged sexual abuse or sexual misconduct dating back 15 years. Cardinal Adam Maida, leader of the archdiocese, addressed the abuse scandal in his Palm Sunday homily, calling for honesty and apologizing for wrongdoing by priests. Ahead of a meeting in Rome with Pope John Paul II and other U.S. cardinals, Maida penned a letter to be read at all parishes apologizing to victims and outlining some of the plans to deal with the problem locally.

Diocese of Gaylord

The Rev. Gerald Shirilla was removed in March as pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alpena following revelations that he had faced sexual abuse allegations stemming from incidents in the 1970s. Former major league baseball player Tom Paciorek went public soon after with allegations that he and three of his brothers were molested by Shirilla when they were children. Although Shirilla wasn't criminally charged and denies the allegations, he was banned from service in 1993 by the Archdiocese of Detroit. Bishop Patrick R. Cooney appointed Shirilla to the Alpena parish in August, but the Detroit archdiocese said its ban still remained in effect.

Diocese of Grand Rapids

The Rev. Vincent Bryce, who served two Montcalm County churches, resigned after admitting to sexually abusing a young male about 25 years ago in another state. Earlier, church officials opened a new investigation into Rev. John Thomas Sullivan, for whom the diocese paid $500,000 in 1994 to settle a sex-abuse case. Sullivan died in 1999. The new abuse allegation against Sullivan stems from incidents about four decades ago. Bishop Robert J. Rose sent a letter to parishes addressing the scandal. He offered reassurance that the diocese would take any allegations seriously and outlined the diocese efforts to prevent abuse. Prosecutors in two counties on Friday said they plan to ask the diocese to open files detailing past allegations of abuse by priests.

Diocese of Kalamazoo

Bishop James A. Murray has offered reassurances about the thoroughness of the diocese's sexual misconduct policies and spoken about the need for priests to address questions from parishioners. He publicly defended the Rev. Carl Peltz, denying allegations that the priest raped a 12-year-old boy in 1984. Peltz, who serves at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Parchment, also maintained his innocence. The abuse allegation was contained in a lawsuit filed in 1991. The $5 million suit in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, was settled by the Diocese of Steubenville for $25,000.

Diocese of Lansing

The Rev. Vincent DeLorenzo, who resigned Jan. 23 as pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton, near Flint, admitted having "inappropriate sexual contact" with a minor in a letter read to parishioners on Good Friday. The resignation followed allegations that the abuse took place over a five-year period starting in the late 1970s. Bishop Carl F. Mengeling discussed the diocese's abuse policies in a letter as a reminder that the diocese remains proactive in its fight against abuse. Priests in the diocese have been encouraged by Mengeling to address abuse in their sermons.

Diocese of Marquette

The Rev. Joseph D. Carne resigned from his post at St. Sebastian Parish in Bessemer following a credible allegation of sexual misconduct involving a minor. The diocese said the victim was not a child, as defined as 16 and under. The allegation stemmed "from many years ago," the diocese said, before Carne came to the parish. Bishop James H. Garland has held gatherings with area priests to discuss the issue of abuse, and has spoken from the pulpit on the matter.

Diocese of Saginaw

The Rev. John E. Hammer recently asked for forgiveness from his parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alma, telling them that he engaged in "inappropriate sexual behavior" that ended "over 16 years ago" when he was in Ohio. The remarks came as a Columbus, Ohio, man who says he was abused by the Hammer in the early 1980s, called on Bishop Kenneth E. Untener to remove the priest. Untener, whose parishes have held discussions about the nationwide abuse scandal, wants to hear from parishioners before deciding whether Hammer should continue to serve. The diocese was aware of the background of Hammer, who spent about 5 years in rehabilitation before he was hired.


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