Vatican Turns down 4 Accused Priests' Appeals

By David Crumm
Detroit Free Press [Detroit MI]
April 20, 2007

After five years of controversy over the removal of priests accused of sexually abusing minors, Catholic leaders in Detroit announced Friday that the Vatican has closed all lingering cases by turning down the last four appeals by accused priests.

The Vatican gave Dennis Duggan its harshest penalty, laicization, which not only bans him from working as a priest but removes his clerical status and cuts formal ties with him.

Duggan was the first priest removed in Detroit when the scandal broke in March 2002. At the time, he was pastor of St. Suzanne and administrator of Our Lady Gate of Heaven, two Detroit parishes that later merged. The accusation against him was from years earlier in his ministry.

The other three who lost their appeals are: the Rev. Ron Williams, removed from St. Mary's of Redford in Detroit in September 2002; the Rev. Dennis Laesch, removed from St. Alfred in Taylor in May 2002; and the Rev. James Wysocki, removed from Holy Cross in Marine City in February 2003.

These three were not laicized but are permanently banned from working in parishes, dressing as priests or referring to themselves as Father. They remain priests but can celebrate mass only alone as a private devotion.

None of the accused priests could be reached Friday, but over the years they have voiced objections to the accusations against them.

Steve Wasko, who attends St. Suzanne-Our Lady Gate of Heaven, said many of Duggan's parishioners believe it was wrong for the church to remove him, whatever might have happened years ago.

"This is such a sad piece of news today, because we're talking about a person who still is considered a great man in the lives of many Catholics," Wasko said Friday.

Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said, "This has been such long, intense work for so many people over the last five years and, first and foremost, we need to think of the tough work of those who brought the complaints forward.

"Of course, it's regrettable that this happened. Over the past five years, 23 priests and one deacon were removed from ministry over accusations of sexual abuse involving minors."

The three men barred from ministry are expected to remain in contact with church officials, who plan to monitor their compliance with the Vatican ruling, McGrath said. Last year, the archdiocese created a full-time staff position to monitor removed priests.

David Clohessy, a nationally known advocate for victims of abuse who lives in St. Louis, said, "The news today may provide some comfort for victims of these predators, but no one should be complacent until men like this are behind bars, and no one should give up on that prospect, regardless of how long ago their crimes might have happened."

Since 2002, eight priests removed by the Detroit archdiocese under accusations of abusing minors have died. Many others are elderly.

Contact DAVID CRUMM at 313-223-4526 or


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