Time Ran out in Priest Case

By Charles Honey
Grand Rapids Press
December 12, 2006

Grand Rapids -- Prosecutors who reviewed allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Michael McKenna say the accusations warranted further investigation and possible prosecution if the state statute of limitations had not long since expired.

A day after the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese announced McKenna had been removed from ministry for "substantive" allegations of abuse, prosecutors said the evidence indicated a teen boy or boys had been sexually abused by McKenna in the 1970s.

Bishop Walter Hurley said McKenna is accused of abusing several boys but would not say how many.

Ed Lis, assistant Kent County prosecutor, said his office reviewed the allegations of a man who said he was abused by McKenna between 1975 and 1978, when the victim was 12 to 15. The man said the incidents occurred in Kent, Muskegon and Newaygo counties, Lis said.

Despite coming nearly 30 years after the alleged incidents, the accusations were quite detailed, Lis said.

"Had it still been within the statute (of limitations) we would have had a full investigation, because it certainly warranted it," Lis said.

In Muskegon County, Prosecutor Tony Tague said he reviewed allegations McKenna had taken a teenage boy to a residence overnight and sexually molested him in the 1970s.

"There was sufficient evidence based on the materials that led us to believe that in fact a crime had been committed," Tague said. "Based on our review, if we had been able, we would have issued a warrant."

McKenna served eight West Michigan parishes, including five churches between 1976 and 1979, before being put on medical leave for undisclosed health problems in 2003. The local parishes he served included St. John Vianney and St. Dominic in Wyoming, St. Francis Xavier in Conklin, Our Lady of Consolation in Rockford and St. Charles in Greenville.

Officials say the allegations came only after he went on leave and did not play a role in his parish moves.

"I have reviewed the file," Hurley said. "There were no reports of inappropriate behavior before he went on medical leave."

Hurley called incidents of abuse "tragic for the whole church."

Send e-mail to the author:


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.