Bishop: Ousted Priest Involved in " Tragic" Cases

December 12, 2006

Grand Rapids (NEWS 3) - The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids is releasing more information about a sanctioned priest and its revamped process for dealing with sexual abuse allegations.

The church removed Father Michael McKenna for his involvement with young men in the 1970s. The diocese has handed over the accusations to prosecutors in three counties.

As for the church's involvement, the bishop says it's a closed case - the product of a new investigative process.

More than 30 years after starting out at St. John Vianney church, McKenna is out of the Catholic Church, prohibited from wearing clerical clothes or presenting himself as a priest.

"They were young men," says Bishop Walter Hurley of the victims. "These are tragic things."

Bishop Hurley says only when McKenna went on medical leave did victims start talking. "It was a mix," he says. "One was a parishioner, the others were not."

The complaints began an investigation - a result of a new church law called the Essential Norms for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Church leaders in Rome now become involved and recommend whether priests will face trials or administrative punishments.

"It was not a matter of not being taken seriously before," Hurley says. "People didn't understand the implications of abuse."

Father Michael McKenna won't face a trial. But it took three years for the church to permanently remove him. "Rome was simply inundated with cases," Hurley explains.

The Catholic Church has more than 200 dioceses across the country. Bishop Hurley says the new system ensures uniformity. He says another part of the process is contacting the churches where that priest served to encourage any other victims to come forward.


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