Deadline for Joining Abuse Suit against Diocese Nears

By Joseph Deinlein
Times Herald [Southfield MI]
Downloaded August 9, 2004

A Southfield lawyer said his firm is investigating dozens of reports of sexual abuse as part of a class-action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Wednesday is the deadline for people to join the suit, which seeks damages for sexual abuse the plaintiffs say was at the hands of 16 priests, at least three of whom served in the Blue Water Area.

Lawyer Justin Ravitz of Sommers, Schwartz, Silver and Schwartz, one of three law firms that filed the suit, declined to say how many people have come forward or who they are. So it's unclear if any Blue Water Area residents have joined the suit or if any charges of abuse have been made surrounding the time the three priests served locally.

"We have spoken to dozens of individuals who claim to be victims," Ravitz said.

Archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath, in a statement released shortly after the suit was filed, said the archdiocese has been commended for its cooperation with civil authorities in reporting and investigating sex-abuse allegations. He said the archdiocese provides counseling for those abused.

"Pastoral care is extended and, when and where indicated, professional counseling is provided," McGrath wrote. An archdiocese spokeswoman last week said there was no further comment on the suit.

Among those named in the suit are:

The Rev. Anthony "Tony" Conti, who resigned May 6, 2002, from All Saints Catholic Church in Memphis amid charges of sexual misconduct earlier in his career.

The Rev. Jude Ellinghausen, who was associate pastor at Holy Cross parish in Marine City in 1973 and associate pastor at St. Joseph parish in Port Huron in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The Rev. Lawrence Edwards, who worked as a chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Port Huron in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Ellinghausen is retired and Edwards is deceased.

The suit, filed May 12 in Wayne County Circuit Court, cites the priests as co-conspirators with the archdiocese in covering up the sexual abuse. Four present or former Wayne County residents, one of whom is remaining anonymous, filed the suit in connection with national activist group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"The victims want to prevent anyone else from being abused," said Barbara Blaine, network president. "They want others to know it's safe to come forward and to find healing."

Not everyone believes the charges against the priests.

Mary Kollinger, 71, a parishioner at All Saints, said Conti was a good priest.

"As a priest and in his priestly duties, he was wonderful," she said.


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